Today i.e. 10th November is the martyrdom day of Major Gopi, posthumous winner of Saurya Chakra. On that day in 2005 he attained martyrdom in a fierce encounter with terrorists in Erin village in Kashmir.
A very bright student he continued to display brightness in his career in Indian Army after he was commissioned as an officer on passing out from the National Defence Academy. Immensely talented and creative he proved his worth and set high bench marks of excellence as a soldier in all assignments he was asked to officiate.
He was ADC to President of India K R Narayanan for four and half years and continued to serve President APJ Abdul Kalam for a few months in the same capacity. While President Narayanan passed away on 9th November 2005 Major Gopi attained martyrdom, the highest honour for any soldier, a day later on 10th November. President Narayanan has been hailed as an exemplary defender of the Constitution of India and Major Gopi has earned for himself a glorious place in the annals of Indian Army for laying down his life in defending the unity and integrity of our nation and safeguarding its pluralistic heritage.
The distinguishing attribute of Major Gopi's life was his adventure in pursuit of Rohan Khayali, the enlightened thinking and ways of life. While engaged in the arduous task of soldiering in the Kashmir valley and its difficult terrains he had the uncanny sense of understanding that the terrorists being trained in our immediate neighborhood had the devious design to convert Kashmir to a theater of clash of civilisations and involve Hindus and Muslims in a prolonged war on the basis of their religious identities. He could see through the diabolical game plan which was contrary to the Kashmiriyat celebrating religious pluralism and fraternity of all faiths. So as a young soldier he advoacted at his own level that apart from employment of military strategies what was required in equal measure was Roshan Khayali, the enlightned thinking, to deal the festering problem of terrorism in Kashmir. His advocacy of Roshan Khayali represented his maturity and profound thinking equal in importance to the stature of a statesman.
In fact the centrality of Roshan Khayali in Gopi's life itself empowered him to see it as a bold solution to many of the intractable problems of society, nation and humanity as a whole. While serving as ADC to President K R Narayanan I witnessed his ways of life anchored in Roshan Khayali. It was evidenced by his manifold activities which took him beyond the routine but heavy schedule of duties he was mandated to perform. One day Gopi called me over telephone, while I was in my office in Rashtrapati Bhavan, to convey that he organised invitation cards for both of us to attend the lecture of nobel laureate Amartya Sen on Indian Identity in Taj Hotel on Man Singh Road. I was impressed beyond measure. It was quite stunning that a young army officer, much younger to me by age, was keen to listen to Amartya Sen's lecture whereas his other valued colleagues were busy in engaging themselves in mundane activities. What Gopi did that day in getting access to the lecture programme of Amartya Sen on a profound subject was nothing but an affirmation of his quest for the world of knowledge and ideas by employing Roshan Khayali. In fact the text of that lecture of the nobel laureate is still a valued posession in the catalogue of books and documents in my small library and I often quote or cite it to underline the enlightening points to persuasively put forth the ideas concerning the identity issues which are now plaguing politics and society and dividing people in a dangerous manner.
That Roshan Khayali on identity was amply demonstrated in his captivating poem Buddha composed by him when he saw the exquisite statue of Buddha in the Durbar Hall of Rashtrapati Bhavan where he performed duties on several occasions. He in that wonderful poem saw his own identity in the identity of Buddha and poetically asserted before the Buddha statue "Mein Tumse Alag Kahan hu", "How am I diferent from you." This kind of Roshan Khayali in seeing himself in the identity of Buddha required extraordinary imagination and he could do so through his philosophical outlook blended with poetic talent.
Today on this solemn day of his martyrdom one recalls many such moments of his life and work which represented in a vivid way his affinity with Roshan Khayali and his undying effort to make it part of the day today life.
When Gopi spent, whatever little spare time he got in Rashtrapati Bhavan, in engaging with books and numerous articles and reflecting the ideas he imbibed from them in his articulations, established his credentials as a exponent and practitioner of Roshan Khayali.
India is now caught in the quagmire of currents contrary to Roshan Khayali. The powers that be often invoke the clash of culture theory to make India a theatre of fratricide war based on faith and narrow identities. We need to salvage the idea of India by making Roshan Khayali central to our outlook and action at every level. Major Gopi's animated legacy upholding Roshan Khayali is of pan Indian necessity in defence of the Idea of India.
#The author served as Officer on Special Duty and Press Secretary to President of India late Shri K R Narayanan and had a tenure in Prime Minister’s Office and Joint Secretary in Rajya Sabha Secretariat. Views expressed in the article are in his personal capacity.