The Guide’s trouble with the Censor Board

Guide copy_rknarayanIf you thought Bollywood’s troubles with the Censor Board are a recent phenomenon, think again. R.K. Narayan recounts, in The Writerly Life, his experience with the movie making process of The Guide. He appropriately titles that episode in his book as The ‘Misguided’ Guide. He devotes 13 pages to that episode, fine Narayan reading of course. I have transcribed the extract pertaining to the interactions to the Censor Board ‘Ministry’.

Next: trouble at the governmental level. A representation was made to the Ministry dealing with films, by an influential group, that The Guide glorified adultery, and hence was not fit to be presented as a film, since it might degrade Indian womanhood. The dancer in my story, to hear the arguments, has no justification for preferring Raju the Guide to her legally-wedded husband. The Ministry summoned the movie principals to Delhi and asked them to explain how they proposed to meet the situation. They promised to revise the film script to the Ministry’s satisfaction.

In my story the dancer’s husband is a preoccupied archaeologist who has no time or inclination for marital life and is not interested in her artistic aspirations. Raju the Guide exploits the situation and weans her away from her husband. That is all there is to it — in my story. But now a justification had to be found for adultery.

So the archaeological husband was converted into a drunkard and womanizer who kicks out his wife when he discovers that another man has watched her dance in her room and has spoken encouragingly to her. I knew nothing about this drastic change of my characters until i saw the ‘rushes’ some months later. This was the point at which I lamented most over my naivete: the contract that I had signed in blind faith, in the intoxication of cheques, bonhomie, and back-slapping, empowered them to do whatever they pleased with my story, and I had no recourse.

 

Rise of small town India

Pic courtesy flickr/Google

Pic courtesy flickr/Google

[Editor’s Note: The piece below was penned by Akshay Garg, former co-founder at Komli Media. It appeared on his Facebook feed and I’m republishing here with his permission. Interesting analogies all around.]

Modi’s emphatic win in these Indian elections is shocking for many reasons, not the least of which is that in a country as divided by religion, caste, language and culture as this, he managed to stitch together a campaign that let the BJP emerge with enough votes to form a government on its own. To many in my generation who are used to the political horse-trading that follows every election and the Shakespearean drama that accompanies coalition politics in India, this is a parting of the clouds moment.

However, even more noteworthy in my opinion is the oft mentioned but little thought about fact that Modi, a tea-maker’s (chai-wallah’s) son with no political lineage and no godfather to guide him, has made it to the most powerful position in India. For those who thought that Slumdog Millionaire was all fiction, here’s living proof that it’s not. Incredible India. Really, yes.

Modi’s ascendance is a sign of the times. It’s no flash in the pan. To astute observers of the changes sweeping through India, and the subcontinent, Modi’s ascendance might even have been expected. There’s a deep and strong current that is bringing Modi and the likes of him to the surface, and it’s not the last time that we’ll be seeing this.

To understand what is going on here, take a look at the Indian cricket team. In the previous century, the nucleus of the Indian cricket team was a bunch of well behaved, English-speaking, middle to upper class gentlemen that all came from Bombay. Gavaskar, Amarnath, Manjrekar, Shastri and finally Tendulkar. All competent players, some even best in the land, but when it came to a team, they were a bunch of also-rans. With the exception of the World Cup victory in 1983, the Indian cricket team was a bunch of good guys who were super comfortable donning blazers and making small talk at the Marylebone Cricket Club (more commonly known as the home of the Lord’s cricket ground) then grinding their noses to the ground in the quest for the top position. All that started changing with Saurav Ganguly captaining India from 2000 onwards. Who can forget that scene in 2001 where he took off his shirt and waved it while standing in the Lord’s balcony celebrating India’s come from behind victory beating England? The musketeers who lead that charge for Ganguly were two small town players – Yuvraj and Mohammed Kaif. Ganguly selected guys like them, stood by them and expected them to get results. They did. Ganguly didn’t have a perfect record, but his captaincy was a ‘come out of the shadows’ moment for India. Other teams started taking India seriously. The Indian team, too, started believing that they could take on the best and beat them too, on their home turf. With MS Dhoni, the son of a plumber from Ranchi, Jharkhand, the phenomenon has come full circle. Dhoni and his men are uninhibitedly small-town India. They flex their muscles, they twirl their moustaches, they give lip and they take it. At times, it results in extremely poor behaviour like when Harbhajan Singh, the truck driving spinner from Jalandhar, called Andrew Symonds a ‘monkey’ in reference to his race, but for the most part, this small town backgrounds manifests itself in hunger and ‘an eye for an eye’ attitude that the Indian cricket team never had in the previous century.

Modi represents the same phenomenon. In this drama, you can let the Gandhi family take the place of the Bombay cricketers referenced above. They’ve had a stranglehold on Indian politics since our independence in 1947 but today, the Congress party has been reduced to having less than 10% of the seats in the Lok Sabha. In their place now is Modi and small town India. Look through the electoral map and you’ll be amazed by how many of the urban educated, suave candidates have lost. More and more, it’s the ‘salt of the earth’ candidates who are voted into our Parliament.

I don’t have a view of this being good or bad or better or worse. It’s just another manifestation of what’s happening in India where traditional centers of power and influence are getting upended by the spreading of opportunity and increased awareness in Tier 2 and rural India. These candidates are local in terms of their affiliations and outlook, petty-minded if you will, but they at least bring to India a sense of belief and self-confidence that had all but disappeared with the Congress. The Nehru-Gandhi family had the temerity to make the affairs of a billion people a family business. Every year for the past 5 years, all the corruption, lack of decision making, empty posturing had chipped away an inch from the height of every Indian. Here’s India, straining at the leashes trying to jump high, and there, they, while claiming to be the representatives and guardians of the people, take one inch away from the people every year! It’s like making a dog run harder and harder to catch its own tail. Bastards.

Modi and team will, if they’re lucky, get much right and little wrong, but more realistically, much right and much wrong. Making a jump from running a state of 60 million people to running a country of a billion people is not easy. Making a jump from managing affairs at a local level to playing a responsible role on the world stage is a road littered with mines. But that’s not where Modi’s success or failure lies. In giving a big f***ing middle finger to the Nehru-Gandhi family, he is taking away that collective feeling of being handicapped and in place restoring some much needed confidence and self-belief in the psyche of India’s people who’ve been battered and bruised in the past 5-10 years. As any sports coach will tell you, confidence and self-belief is at least 50% of the winning formula. The rest is skill, for which the jury on Modi is still out.

Gandhi-Nehru to Anna-Kejriwal: an interesting cross-era analogy

In case you haven’t noticed, the most interesting Indian political discussions are happening on Facebook. Last week, a friend (a keen follower of the ‘India story’ with an appetite for indulging in high quality discussions) shared the following update regarding AAP.

Just realized AAPs strategy is like Gordon Gekkos. Find a state with decent balance sheet. Promise lots and lots of freebies. Get power, give freebies, destroy balance sheet. Rinse repeat.
Unstoppable?

Pic courtesy wikimedia.org

Pic courtesy wikimedia.org

One of his friends (Harsh Pant) made a striking analogy between the Anna-Kejriwal partnership->movement->split and that other famous partnership from the 1940’s – Gandhi-Nehru. I reproduce Harsh’s comment below with his permission:

Hey, something made me revisit this: There indeed are SOME parallels to the 1940s:

  • 1) There is a Gandhi figure (Hazare), living austere life, able to (at least till recently) have millions stand behind him on beck and call, fearless of what happens to them, passive resistors, satyagrahis. Is a mass movement leader, who talks of village development and self government, believes State Machinery and Political Parties that control it, are by definition, evil…for the State is but concentrated power to coerce and “discipline” everyone. Gandhi wanted to dissolve the Congress as a political party, was possibly (I’m not remembering that part of the History) opposed to Congress contesting elections under the British reforms in the beginning too, and Hazare has been clear that he does not want to convert his movement into a political party.
  • 2) A Nehru figure that believes the State can be for good, and is Socialistically inclined. Dumps the idea of village centric/self sufficient, simple life village commune organization, goes: ‘modern’ + socialist (read: Statist) + Secural…Breaks from Gandhi totally tho’ still Bapu’ing him around.
  • Jan Sangh (BJP) and the RSS: with a 3rd vision.
In happier days (Pic courtesy Outlook India)

In happier days (Pic courtesy Outlook India)

The difference from 40s:

  • 1) BJP has more traction with voters than the Jan Sangh had, bcos the talk of BJP is not (merely) focussed on Hindu religion, maryada, pride etc., but also talks Development and expansion of Economic life.
  • 2) there is also the vorginal Congress around.
  • 3) There are now also some powerful caste-based, namesake Socialist formations.
  • GENERAL: Some Marxist parties timepassingly around then and now.
  • Common People engaged – passionately AAPers, BhJPa’is, Kangraesis, et al….like they used to be right at and after independence.
  • Many a Patel fig (eg Kiran Bedi) outsmarted/outlucked by the Kejriwal wrt being the top political beneficiary of the whole thingy….developing two-way soft corner with the Right Wing formation.
  • Nehru willed into existence IITs (would have been to the horror of Gandhi if he lived to see their establishment – To Gandhi: State, Mass Production, Technology — all were evil as they represented concentrated power and ability to repress), whilst Kejri is an IITian.
  • FUNNY TADKA: At the end of the day, we the IITians, at this point, are the most sceptical Kejri is upto any good.

Harsha also weighs in on why Delhi’ites voted for AAP…

 IMO – it was never the mix of Socialism and Capitalism that people in their disgruntlement popped up AAP. Indian political and policy making processes will iterate on them just fine without Kejriwal. We don’t need him to add freebies and reservation, the existing blokes are sufficient to do harm. The corruption and money siphoning by Gov structures have left us hearing about n% growth, but water supply that is neither drinkable nor quite bathable, air near unbreathable, no pathways to walk even 1/2 km to someplace, roads undrivable, gulleys ungujerable with dogs and dump. The corruption of Gov structures is killing us. THAT’s what we expect Kejriwal to deliver us from. We were not looking for expanding subsidies or reservations or unhappy with dollar policy or foreign policy. In fact, economic policy is something Kejriwal can well leave to the Bureucracy…at least for time being. First he needs to act on Gov-public delivery of basic living infrastructure.

The Merchant of Corrupt Venice

Pic courtesy maddyndss.edublogs.org

Pic courtesy maddyndss.edublogs.org

I think of Portia’s famous speech often – every time a corrupt minister  gets implicated in a corruption scam. When Infosys’ Narayana Murthy came up with that ridiculous suggestion that anti-corruption legislation should be crafted to only punish the “taker” and not the “giver”, I thought of it again. When Vadragate broke I thought it might be fun to ‘play’ with the passage and replace ‘mercy’ with ‘corruption’. One thing led to another and I ended up making many other changes.

Here’s the original in its full glory – fair Portia appealing to Shylock the Jew’s mercy.

The quality of mercy is not strain’d,

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence ‘gainst the merchant there.

In the parody below, replace Antonio the Merchant with any of your favorite corrupt minister (Raja, Kalmadi, Pawar, etc.) and  Shylock’s place is taken by a humble Indian citizen. What of Portia? Replace her with your favorite government prosecutor CBI. Edits in blue.

The quality of corruption is not strain’d,

It droppeth as the acid rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice curst;
It curseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘Tis ghastliest in the ghastliest: it becomes
The throned maunarch worse than his crown;
His turban shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to pusillanimity and servility,
Wherein doth sit the greed and impudence of ministers;
But corruption is above this turbaned sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of merchants,
It is an attribute to Devil himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest Devil’s
When corruption seasons justice. Therefore, Citizen,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for gullibility;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of corruption. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
Which if thou follow, this strict court of India
Must needs give sentence ‘gainst the merchant there.

 

Manmohan Singh’s shambolic apology for the 1984 anti-Sikh riots

In Dec 2012, Firstpost’s Editor-in-chief R. Jagannathan (@thejaggi on Twitter) wrote an incisive piece titled Maya, Modi and the art of the unapologetic apology. It caught my attention this morning when I read an analysis about the British Premier David Cameron’s ‘apology’ for Jallianwala Bagh massacre. I quote the Manmohan Singh section below – the reprehensible parts are underlined by me.

A variant of the second full apology is the one offered by Manmohan Singh on the anti-Sikh riots of 1984. Here the apology sounds real and sincere, but it is offered on behalf of someone else. It is also forced by events.

Manmohan Singh’s 2005 apology for the anti-Sikh riots — in which Congress goons killed more than 3,000 Sikhs in Delhi and elsewhere after Indira Gandhi’s assassination — was applauded by the world of a great example of official contrition. But what did Singh actually say on 11 August 2005 in Parliament that sounded so sincere?

Here are some of his key sentences and phrases.

While calling the assassination of Indira Gandhi a “great national tragedy”, he added, “’what happened subsequently was equally shameful.” (Note: What happened cannot apparently be mentioned clearly. And the killing of 3,000-and-odd Sikhs was just “equally shameful” as the killing of the PM.)

Singh’s apology came after the GT Nanavati Commission named several Congress leaders as complicit in the killings, and it seemed as if BJP and Akali politicians will make political capital out of it to put Congress on the mat. So he said: “I have no hesitation in apologising to the Sikh community. I apologise not only to the Sikh community, but to the whole Indian nation because what took place in 1984 is the negation of the concept of nationhood enshrined in our Constitution.”

But why did Singh apologise for something done by Rajiv Gandhi’s government, of which he wasn’t even a part? Was there any apology from the Gandhi family, since it was Rajiv Gandhi who justified the violence claiming that when a big tree falls, the earth shakes. And during the post-assassination election campaign, Rajiv Gandhi used anti-Sikh sentiment to harvest Hindu votes — in worse ways than what Narendra Modi did after Godhra in 2002.

The upshot of this apology? The nation lost its appetite in demanding justice for Sikhs killed in 1984.

 

On a nation with drastically low expectations

Pic: courtesy icms.net

Pic: courtesy icms.net

Three tweets from @albatrossinfo (RT’d by CentreRight India’s Prasanna Viswanathan) caught my attention this evening.

It also reminded me of an old post — really a Facebook thread resurrected on my blog — Enough with the “we need better leaders” nonsense!

Ejipura evictions and Karnataka State Human Rights Commission

If you have read about last month’s evictions (and demolition) of a slum in the Ejipura/Koramangala neighborhood of Bangalore.. and want to do something about it, here’s a sample of the letter you can write/email to the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission. Leave a comment and I’ll DM/message you the relevant email addresses.

To

Karnataka State Human Rights Commission
4th Floor, 5th Phase, Multi Storeyed Buildings
Bangalore-560001
Karnataka

Jan19-2 084Dear Madam/Sir,

I write to you to express my grievance and deep disturbance at the recent human rights violations of citizens of India residing in Bangalore and to lodge a complaint against the Greater Bangalore city municipal corporation (BBMP) for illegally evicting these people and rendering them homeless.

Citizens from poor economic backgrounds and evicted residents of Ejipura’s EWS quarters (Koramangala) have faced many human rights violations for years now. The EWS Quarters were built by the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike in Ejipura, adjoining Koramangala. In 2004, many blocks that were “unfit” to be used began to give way and collapsed. When the monsoons arrived in 2007- 08, another block collapsed, claiming three people, including a child. Since then, citizens have been living in tin sheets with false promises and neglects by the municipal corporation and Karnataka State.

The latest casualty is a woman who reportedly died of cold, hunger and shock after sudden and unanticipated BBMP led evictions on 18th January, 2013.

On 18th January 2013, 1500 urban poor families and 5000 people from Ejipura, EWS quarters, Bangalore were evicted violently by the City municipal corporation. Many of them have been scattered through the city, with no home, shortage of food and supplies and all their possessions destroyed. The BBMP has created more homeless people whereas it should be providing for the already urban homeless and protecting rights of urban poor.

Jan19-2 105In the last 10 years, BBMP could have built new houses for the poor on the same expanse, but it dragged its feet for years but developed a PPP with a private company to develop the EWS land, without the consent of the residents. The company that has benefited from the BBMP’s delay tactics is Maverick Holdings and Investment Pvt Ltd, the same company that built the Garuda Mall in the upmarket MG Road-Brigade Road area. This company has also been known for flouting building and development rules and has usurped public land meant for parking and public purposes in prime Bangalore location, to commercially develop it for its own gains.

Day 3 054This city belongs to the poor as well. Kindly impartially investigate into human rights violation, be it deprivation of land rights, shelter, possession, food, dignity and livelihood of the urban poor and publicly make available your reports. People from the area have fled to many parts of the city already and so I request urgent intervention from your part to get them justice. Kindly register this as a public complaint by citizens of Bangalore against the BBMP and take pertinent and stringent action from your capacities. Stand up for the urban poor and stand for their rights.

Find attached, photos from the evictions and demolitions, courtesy citizen journalists from Bangalore. I would appreciate it greatly if you would get back to me with details from your investigations at the earliest.

Best regards,

– Concerned Bangalore citizen

 

Bangalore BESCOM’s MD sets the bar for (gasp) efficient babudom

Mr. P. Manivannan (BESCOM MD) - Pic courtesy thehindu.com

Mr. P. Manivannan (BESCOM MD) – Pic courtesy thehindu.com

While the UPA-II government has been working tirelessly to muzzle social media at every opportunity they get (and creating some along the way), some bureaucrats are using social media the way it’s supposed to be — listening to their constituents, providing valuable proactive updates, offering suggestions to sister organizations, etc. Hark! Did I say some bureaucrats, brashly connoting plural? At this point, I’m only aware of ONE such bureaucrat – Mr. Manivannan, Managing Director of BESCOM – Bangalore’s Electric Supply division. I’ve been tracking and appreciating Mr. Manivannan’s Facebook updates but his update posted yesterday (reproduced below) made me urgently write this post.

Dear All,

Thanks to our Bangalore BESCOM team, there won’t be any load-shedding in Bangalore city! They have overworked till late night yesterday with all possible calculations and micro-management saving the precious power, to ensure that, in-spite of the shortage caused by UPCL, there WILL NOT be any load-shedding in Our city!

It’s my duty to appreciate the extra-efforts taken by the Bangalore BESCOM team, led by Chief of operations, Mahadev, Cebmaz Work, circle chiefs; See Bcn BescomSee East Circle,See West Circle BescomSee South El, not to miss Prakash Venkataramu, who works almost 24×7 man at the control room.

Today, there is an emergency oil leakage in the main 100 MVA transformer of HAL, which has to be attended of emergency basis. This may lead to partial outage from 9am to 3pm in the eastern parts of the city. Except that, there is no load-shedding anywhere in the city today.

The UPCL problem is likely to get resolved by February 10th, after which the supply situation will be comfortable in Rural regions also.
We thank the Bangalore citizens and our rural consumers for being with us, and supporting us during this critical period.

We also commit ourselves to do our best to ensure uninterrupted power supply in our Bangalore, as it was in the last 2 years!

If you liked the above, go follow him on his Facebook page.

 

Jaipur’s Day of Shame

Yesterday was the 4th edition of the Ambuja Jaipur Marathon. My friends from Delhi (Strang and Rakhi) were eagerly looking forward to running the half marathon in Jaipur for the first time. Little did they know what kind of horrid hooliganism awaited them.. while they were running. Strang posted the following update on Facebook which should make any self-respecting Jaipur’ite bow their heads in shame.

Future Runners Beware!

Hooligans on the prowl at the Ambuja Jaipur Marathon…

With great expectations Rakhi and I registered for the Ambuja Jaipur Half Marathon. But came away injured, (Yes, Injured!), disappointed and utterly disgusted with the way the event was organized and the less- than-welcome attitude of the local men who, I now know, have no appreciation for an event like this, less so for the runners participating. What added insult to injury was the impunity with which these men were openly teasing, hooting, physically blocking the path of runners and forming groups that would then run alongside, passing all sorts of comments.  The police and security bandobast was woefully short on manpower to control an event of this magnitude.  Witnessing what was going on throughout the course, I felt, here was a disaster waiting to happen!

The half marathon event for the open category was to be flagged off at 07:00 a.m.  We were promised that traffic would be controlled along the route till 10:00 a.m. after which, runners still wanting to complete the course would have to do so in regular traffic flow. Fair enough.  But, and no surprises here, the start was delayed by about 30 minutes.

At about 08:45 a.m. or so my wife and I were running on the road that was supposed to be without traffic, the JLN Marg, when suddenly from behind I was hit hard on the head by a bus! I got hit from behind really hard and when I looked up at what hit me, this is what I saw. It was one of those small city buses which had men hanging out of its single door, sitting on the roof and also hanging from the grills at the rear. Hooting, eve teasing and where possible, driving as close to runners to obviously frighten and intimidate them, all the while laughing and seeming thrilled with what they were doing.  On the bus were men, some who had completed the 7 kms run and were still wearing their bibs and some wearing the white run t-shirt, and they seemed to be having the time of their lives! I am sure one of those hooligans hanging from the footboard took a swipe at me. Fucking cowards didn’t have the balls to stop and come at me even when I loudly abused the lot of them using the choicest of language. They just laughed, smirked, hooted and carried on. I’m sure, to trouble other runners.  I hailed a cop car that came up and narrated the incident. While narrating it, I witnessed at least three more over-loaded city buses pass by with men hanging from every possible hand-hold creating a scene.  Of course, if buses could do this with impunity, you can imagine how many bikers, three to a bike, were around having a great time at the runners expense.

Being a Republic Day Run, the event company had put up colourful balloons (national colours- orange, white and green) spanning the entire length of the 7 kms route (or maybe more but I didn’t notice). What I witnessed was appalling!  Groups of men who had completed their 7 kms run, all wearing the white run t-shirt tore down those balloons and then proceeded to jump on them and burst them right there on the road, all in the path of the runners! Banners, flags and anything else they could lay their hands on also were not spared. Such hooliganism!!!  Imagine negotiating through this shit! I even saw a photographer film this entire scene and hope he shares it with the organizers for them to never attempt such an event again.  Especially not in Jaipur!

The icing on the cake was when traffic was allowed to flow regularly, much before the 10:00 a.m. promised time. Not that they stopped those overloaded city buses which were on the roads way before 10:00 a.m. and whose sole purpose in life was to harass runners. 

I doff my hat to all the women who participated, especially the ones who were running alone and were seen as easy targets by these hooligans.  No way was I going to leave the side of my wife even for a second after witnessing and going through all this.  I feared for every woman.  And this when I saw groups of people (organizers???) wearing t-shirts that had “Respect for Woman” printed on the back.  

I obviously didn’t get to the finish line but a friend who did has another horror tale to tell.  But that’s his story, if he chooses to share.

Finally, after the 13 km mark, we decided to quit the run. We couldn’t deal with the terrible traffic conditions and the hooliganism. I thought Jaipur, a city on the world tourist map, would be welcoming and encouraging and take pride in an event such as this. How wrong I was.

So, if you’re a competitive runner aspiring to be in the top 50 or so, the roads are clear and hopefully safe for you but if you are a runner who runs slow, takes at least 2 1/2 hours for a half marathon and participates for the joy of running, beware of hooligans running amok and nobody giving a damn!

Rakhi and I are never ever running in Jaipur or any hic-town, again.

Follow-up comment from Rakhi on the FB thread: A very unfortunate and disappointing experience. And a harsh reminder of the grim reality of india. Do we wonder why Nirbhaya happened? I went to sleep last night asking Strang the question – how many thousands of Nibhayas may happen in a city like Jaipur where their sad stories go unnoticed and remain untold?

 

On heroes, martyrs, and beheadings…

Shared on my friend’s Facebook wall – a point of view from an army man (friend’s friend) who has served at the LOC (don’t know when or for how long). Provides a fresh perspective on what exactly the ‘beheading’ might have been and also on the issue of heroes vs. martyrs.

– Quote –

“I have always been proud of our Army and our soldiers – not only are they professionals but also patriots. I probably represent the miniscule national fraternity that does not see soldiers who have died on the line of duty as ‘martyrs’. To my understanding martyrs are those who die fighting odds in a cause other than their own chosen vocation. As professional soldiers, we choose to wield arms for national service voluntarily, aware of the risks and perks. We were trained to defend our lives and kill for a higher cause – that of defending our nation. While every soldier who loses his life or limb in the course of his professional calling is a hero, he is not a martyr. Don’t eugolise him as such – instead introspect whether he died for the right cause, or was he trained well enough, led well enough or prepared well enough? Look after his family that they are proud of their hero and don’t miss out on their existential necessities of everyday life and prosperity.

This nation of ours beats its puny chest for its ‘martyrs’ and does little more. For instance, the security folk who died when Parliament was attacked are eugolised annually as martyrs. This is insulting not only to their memories but hundreds others who die in the course of their duty. They died doing what they were trained, equipped, led, paid & expected to do – defend Parliamentry premises against unauthorised entry at all costs. If they failed, which they clearly did despite being superior numerically and by way of organisation, they died trying to make amends. They were no martyrs; probably no heroes too. Carelessness or complacency on the job, or both, may have actually cost them their lives.

This latest incident on the LoC with Pakistan has news channels abuzz with veterans joining retired bureaucrats in chestbeating over alleged mutilation of Indian soldiers, and chest-thumping over the need to respond by upping the ante. What a bucketload of poppy-cock (crap actually)! A professional analysis of the incident(s) will probably reveal that we Indians may have drawn first blood & fired the first shots in response to Pak provocations (they know how to stir the pot) in crossing the LoC in Uri to sort out a particular tactical irritant. These local tactical actions involve employing a small team of specially trained soldiers who infiltrate across the LoC to reach their intended target by stealth. Sentries are overcome using silent methods such as knife kills before rushing the objective for its worth.

I can only guess that we would have knocked off a Pakistani Observation Post by small trans-LoC commando action. Churunda, developed as a model village after the Uri quake, was right in the show-window on the LoC and certainly had no utility as an ingress point for infiltrating terrorists.

The Pakistanis have responded in the manner expected having allegedly lost a couple of soldiers. Given the snow conditions in the Valley, as well as the heightened alert on account of an anticipated enemy response, the Pakis reciprocated in kind in the Poonch-Rajauri sector. In doing so they to would have infiltrated a small Border Action Team across the LoC with a tactical mandate similar to that achieved earlier by the Indians. Sentry silencing on such missions using knives or other ‘traditional’ non-ballistic means is now being bandied about as mutilation. If the Pakistanis have deliberately beheaded an Indian soldier and carried off the head as a trophy, which they do, it is a brutal, barbaric anti-escalatory retort; Something like John Rambo’s menacing drawl in First Blood, “Let it go!”

Why are we whining about a lack of candle-light marches our public sympathy for fallen soldiers who have died in the line of duty? That they may have suffered barbaric mutilation is not a cause for public sympathy – it calls for due investigation and an appropriate response. Whether we behead a multitude of the enemy in counter-response or obliterate the enemy battalion’s posts through a high-explosive response, or seek civil means of settling the score and having the last say, is a matter for the wise and those in authority to decide.

Heroes not martyrs !
Unquote