Baggavalli Somashekar Raju is a serving Lieutenant General of the Indian Army. He was recently appointed as the 44th Vice Chief of the Army Staff. BS Raju is also known to have increased the communication between the Indian Army and the Kashmiri Awaam. He is also credited with adopting a humanitarian approach while dealing with the terrorists in Kashmir. He also brought notable changes and improvements to the Indian Army’s 15 Corps; making it more effective.
Baggavalli Somashekar Raju was born on Saturday, 19 October 1963 (age 58 years; as of 2021) in Baggavalli village, Ajjampura, Chikmagalur district, Karnataka, India. He wanted to join the Indian Army from a very young age. After clearing an all-India level entrance exam; BS Raju joined the prestigious Sainik School at Bijapur, Karnataka. After completing his schooling in 1979, he appeared for the National Defence Academy’s entrance exam. He joined the NDA in December 1980. After completing his training at NDA; he joined the Indian Military Academy in 1983, where he trained for a year. He was commissioned in the Indian Army on 15 December 1984.
Height (approx.): 5′ 10″
Hair Colour: Grey
Eye Colour: Light Brown
Baggavalli Somashekar Raju belongs to a Kannada family.
His father’s name is Somashekarappa Raju, a lecturer by profession. His mother’s name is Vimala Raju.
Wife & Children
His wife’s name is Shakuntala Raju. He has a son who works as a computer engineer in the United States of America. He completed his graduation from Singapore National University. He also has a daughter, who is also an engineer.
Beginning of an illustrious career in the Jat Regiment
BS Raju was commissioned in the 11th Battalion of the Jat Regiment. While serving in the unit, he held several important, battalion-based appointments, such as Company Commander, Adjutant and the Second in Command. While serving in the Jat Regiment, BS Raju qualified for the helicopter pilot’s training and after completing his training, he became a qualified helicopter pilot. He also served in the United Nations mission in Somalia, where he flew several aerial reconnaissances and patrolling missions. In Somalia, BS Raju served with the Indian Army’s Aviation Corps. BS Raju, after getting promoted to the rank of a Major, was appointed as a Brigade Major, which is a very important post. From 2001 to 2002, BS Raju also participated in Operation Parakram. In 2006, he was promoted to the rank of a Colonel, and he went on to command the 15th Battalion of the Jat Regiment.
Holding important posts in the Indian Army
Upon completing his command of 15 Jat, BS Raju was posted as an instructor at the Defence Services Staff College. He was also sent as an instructor to the Army War College at Mhow in Madhya Pradesh. BS Raju, as a Colonel, was posted as the Military Secretary (Legal) at Army Headquarters in Delhi.
Climbing the ladder of promotions
BS Raju was promoted to the rank of a Brigadier on 13 June 2011. After getting promoted, BS Raju was sent as the Brigade Commander of the Uri Brigade. After completing his tenure as a Brigade Commander, in 2014, he was posted as the Brigadier General Staff (BGS) of the Indian Army’s Kashmir based White Knight Corps. He became a Major General on 27 March 2017. Upon receiving the promotion, BS Raju was appointed as the Deputy Director-General of Military Operations (DDGMO). He was, later on, sent as the Director-General Staff Duties (DGSD) at Army Headquarters in Delhi. He was then sent as the Commandant of the Indian Military Training Team in Bhutan, where he directed the training of the soldiers of the Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) and the Royal Bodyguard of Bhutan (RBG). BS Raju was performing his duties excellently, as a result of which, he was appointed the Force Commander of the Indian Army’s elite Counter-Insurgency force, the Victor Force.
In 2019, BS Raju was promoted to the rank of a Lieutenant General and took over the 15 Corps of the Indian Army as a Corps Commander. He stayed as the Corps Commander from 1 March 2020 to 17 May 2021.
Appreciable work done by BS Raju in the Kashmir Valley
When BS Raju was serving as the Victor Force’s commander, Burhan Wani, who was the poster boy of the banned terror outfit, Hizbul Mujahideen, was killed by the Victor Force of the Indian Army. He also personally oversaw that the killers of the Kashmiri Army officer, Lieutenant Umar Fayaz, were brought to justice, in which he succeeded. It was due to BS Raju’s efforts, that a young and talented football player from Kashmir, Majid Khan, was rescued from the militants, who were forcing him to become a militant.
Upon being appointed as the 15 Corps’ Commander, BS Raju emphasised cultivating a greater inter-personal relationship between the Indian Army and the Kashmiri locals. He also focused more on upholding human values. In an interview, BS Raju said,
The Army is a friend of every civilian and that message has been conveyed aptly by my predecessor. My every attempt would be to continue this practice.”
As a Corps Commander, BS Raju changed the traditional method of locating and killing the militants on the spot, he rather adopted a more humanitarian approach towards the militants. Before beginning a gunfight with the militants, he ordered the field commanders to give the trapped militants a chance to surrender. He also wanted greater provisioning of rehabilitation and resettlement facilities, for the surrendered militants. In an interview, BS Raju said,
The armed forces don’t want to kill militants and that an opportunity to surrender is given to every militant. As I said, every loss of life is unfortunate. We don’t even want to kill militants, we give them an opportunity to surrender. Militants striking in populated areas seek civil casualties because that gets attention. Civilian deaths provide fodder to propaganda machines. Security forces show restraint. Even to the militants, we always offer the choice to surrender.”
His newly adopted humanitarian approach bore fruitful results. The total number of locals, joining the banned terror outfits, reduced drastically and there was a considerable increase in the surrendering of the militants. BS Raju believed in, directly connecting and addressing the youth of Kashmir. BS Raju referred to the youth as the “Generation of Rage.” While giving an interview, he said,
My main message to youth – is you can get back and we will take care of you. In the last six months, seventeen of those who had strayed have come back and we will take care of them. My appeal to the youth who have gone astray is to come back. They can get back anytime, including during operations. They can call anybody, their parents, our helpline and we will organise their return.”
To increase the Indian Army’s accountability, BS Raju established a Feedback and Grievances Helpline number, through which the local Kashmiri Awaam could connect directly with the 15 Corps Commander. He also started a programme, “A Day With The Company Commanders.” In this programme, the military personnel could meet and establish friendly relations with the locals. This move was aimed at increasing the level of trust between the armed forces and the Kashmiri local populace. Under the command of BS Raju, the Indian Army’s 15 Corps started another programme called, “Khairiyat Patrol.” Under this programme, the Indian Army would visit the locals living in the far-flung areas, and assist them in any work, that they needed help with. More emphasis was laid on it during the COVID-19 pandemic. The 15 Corps also organized several sports and cultural programmes in Kashmir. The programmes were organized to improve the relationship between the locals from different areas. The Indian Army, under the aegis of Operation Sadbhavna, runs a chain of schools named, Army Goodwill School. When BS Raju took over as the Corps Commander, he introduced the digital format of learning. He also emphasized changing and improving the teaching methods. Due to BS Raju’s innovative suggestions; the performance of students improved manifold, especially of the students studying in classes 10th and 12th.
Serving as a Director-General of Military Operations (DGMO) and his appointment as the Vice Chief of Army Staff
BS Raju was made the Director-General of Military Operations in 2021. He was in charge of maintaining the Indian Army’s operational preparedness along the Line of Actual Control; during the Sino-India military standoff. It was during his tenure as a DGMO, that both India and Pakistan agreed to follow the norms listed in the 2003 Ceasefire Agreement. In an interview, BS Raju stated,
Observing a ceasefire is in the best interest of both India and Pakistan, and is the need of the hour and I want this truce to work. The locals living along the border will get a chance to live their normal lives, which was hampered by numerous cease fire violations in the past.”
On 1 May 2022, Lt Gen BS Raju took over as the Vice Chief of the Army Staff, thus becoming the second most senior officer in the Indian Army. He took over the charge from General Manoj Pande, who took over as the new Chief of Army Staff (COAS).
General MM Naravane #COAS & All Ranks of #IndianArmy congratulate Lieutenant General BS Raju on being appointed as the Vice Chief of the Army Staff #VCOAS of #IndianArmy. Lt Gen BS Raju will assume the appointment of #VCOAS on 01 May 2022.#IndianArmy#InStrideWithTheFuture pic.twitter.com/kM6q6n3g67
— ADG PI – INDIAN ARMY (@adgpi) April 29, 2022
Awards, Honours, Achievements
- On 22 November 2022, Lieutenant General BS Raju was awarded the Uttam Yudh Seva Medal, by the President of India.
- Ati Vishisht Seva Medal
- Yudh Seva Medal
- Commendation Card
- BS Raju focuses on education a lot. In his hometown, he supports the students, who are studying in the government school and are doing well. In an interview, the President of Baggavalli Gram Panchayat said,
There’s a festive atmosphere in the village following his appointment. Every year, Lt. Gen. Raju felicitates and supports meritorious students from the village and gives them uniforms, shoes and other academic requirements. We’re very happy about his promotion.”
- BS Raju’s stance on Pakistan has always been tough and clear. In an interview, he stated,
We are always prepared to give them a befitting reply and we will always defeat their (Pakistan’s) dangerous and nefarious designs.”
- It was during his tenure as a Corps Commander, that the European delegates had visited Jammu and Kashmir, under the United Nations’ charter.
- On 8 April 2022, BS Raju launched a book, Tiger of Drass, based on the tales of bravery of Captain Anuj Nayyar, Mahavir Chakra.
- In the coming months, BS Raju will be made an Army Commander, as he still has 19 months of service left. He will become the second Vice Chief of Army Staff in the history of the Indian Army, who would be made an Army Commander, after holding the post of the Vice Chief.
- Lt Gen BS Raju, throughout his military service, has been posted in the Kashmir valley, more than 5 times.
- The programmes introduced by BS Raju have turned out to be a huge success in Kashmir. As a result of which, various divisions and corps of the Indian Army, deployed in Kashmir, have adapted to the policies and programmes as well.