Battled with his own mind,now Kargil hero eases others’ pain

Battled with his own mind,now Kargil hero eases others’ pain

India’s first officer-turned-psychologist,Lt Col (retd) Dr Samir Rawat to present paper on Psychology and Combat Veterans in Switzerland.

The story of Kargil veteran Lt Col (retd) Dr Samir Rawat is quite fascinating. It is the story of how a war-hardened Armed Corps officer,with unusual tenures in the Siachen glacier,saw the need to look inside the minds of soldiers who fight to protect the nation’s frontiers and its people.

He became the only ‘home-grown psychologist-officer’ of the Indian Army and the first counselor for over 2,000 officers-to-be at the National Defence Academy (NDA).

In May this year,military psychologists from around the world will gather in Berne,Switzerland,to deliberate on the practical applications of military psychology. Lt Col (retd) Dr Samir Rawat will be one of them. He will present a paper on ‘Psychology and Combat Veterans’.

The twist in the story of this combat veteran,who had a ‘mention-in-dispatches’ in the 1999 Kargil war,came from a single Pakistani bullet. For most field officers,life ends when one can’t be on the field. But that was not the case with Rawat.


“Commissioned into the 75th Armoured Regiment,I was attached to the Ladakh Scouts in the 1999 operations posted in the Batalik sector. Ceasefire had been announced,but cross-border firing continued. A young major then,I had just finished field dressing of one of my men,and just as we moved ahead,a bullet hit me in the knee and I blacked out. A Ladakhi dragged me behind a rock and dressed my wound. Later,when we were de-inducted,I was heli-lifted to Chandigarh,where I spent five months in a chair. My field career was over!

“It were these five months that compelled me to think about the psychological aspects of conflict,” Rawat explained,while narrating his experience on the frontiers.

Politely rejecting the advice from fellow officers to hang the uniform,Rawat embarked on a new journey,this time into the minds of the soldiers.

“I wanted to do something by remaining in the Army,not by leaving it. So,I started reading about psychology and found out about courses that could enhance my knowledge on the subject,” said Rawat,who,over the years,completed his Masters in Psychology,an international diploma in guidance and counseling,M Phil in Defence and Strategic Studies and a PhD in Psychology — all this,while in uniform and using only his own financial resources.

The officer’s first recognition as a psychologist came from the Army itself,when he got posted in the Junior Leaders’ Academy in Bareily 2007. After two years of counseling JCOs and senior NCOs of the Army,the Forces showed faith in him by posting him at the cradle of military leadership — NDA — in 2009 as the first ever “officer-psychologist” of the academy.

“The academy created to train future officers needs a psychologist. While imbibing the military spirit and camaraderie among the cadets,one had to face some of the most basic yet valid questions — is it right for a commandant’s daughter to sit next to the driver in his official vehicle? While questions like this made me happy that the cadet shed his fear for uniform and spoke to an officer; on the other hand,I have the onus to give him an appropriate answer,so that he understands what is right for him as a future general,” Rawat said,while stressing the importance of psychology in the Armed Forces.

With no charter established for psychologists in the NDA,Rawat had the task of creating a place for himself in an area completely new to the 55-year-old institution of the country.

It was during his tenure at the NDA that Rawat represented India at the International Conference of Military Psychologists at Bali in 2011,then again in Croatia in 2012. He was also the first Indian to present a paper on military psychology at the International Applied Military Psychologists Conference at Vienna in 2011. “When I first went to IMTA,there was no Indian flag. The second time,the tricolour was centrally placed,” said Rawat. The NDA’s request to extend Rawat’s tenure to five years was turned down by the MS branch,resulting in him taking a premature retirement in August 2012. But as a visiting faculty at the Senior Command Wing of the Army War College,Rawat now addresses psychological aspects of warfare to the top brass in the military leadership.