[Editor’s Note: Last week we had a kerfuffle in our high school Whatsapp group. The Minority Report voiced the ‘unpopular’ notion that the armed forces are a bunch of attention seeking spoilt brats. I mean what’s so special about the armed forces? They get a salary too, right? Just like the rest of us. Hey, we accountants are also super-hardworking too, you damn pretentious-glory-seeking-men-in-fatigues! I’ve made sacrifices too, yelled the serial entrepreneur. Not like staying away from my family for years and dodging enemy bullets but you know.. I’ve filled a few begging bowls too.. does that make me a selfless person? As the fauji supporters clashed with the Minority Report, the politically correct populace interspersed with “Every profession has its place and value.” Of course, brothers and sisters! but THAT was not the point.
I was one of the fauji supporters but by the time I entered the fray and throw in a few punches, the shush’ing and time-to-move-on sounds had already begun.
The POINT that was being missed? That there ARE certain professions that elicit/inspire the selfless in the human spirit. What might be these professions? Armed forces, police, doctors. It’ll take a few more decades before police can rebuild their credibility. Doctors are the only profession (apart from armed forces) who have allegedly taken an oath – the famed Hippocratic Oath. What a damn hypocrisy it has become for so many doctors out to fleece the clueless populace. But I digress. The armed forces are STILL the veritable oasis in the self-absorbed/everyman/every-clan-to-himself desert of Indian society. Sure – an attenuation of purpose, a reduction of the higher ideal has come about, corruption has crept in.. in high places of the armed forces. In spite of all that, it’s STILL a top bastion of that best of human ideal – to serve and protect! You may disagree on how much idealism and selflessness still remains in the Indian armed forces but you can’t pretend that it doesn’t exist! Because it ain’t true. Don’t piss on a soldier’s grave and drawl that he was in it only for the money because it ain’t true.
A few days ago 20 Indian soldiers were ambushed in Manipur. Bet you hadn’t heard that news. And if you did, I’m sure the number (20) is the only one that stuck. Well, at least it wasn’t 100 you might even have thought.
By now you are probably wondering, what DOES your army friend want from you – yes, YOU the CIVILIAN! Read two essays below – the first by my army friend, the second by a commanding officer. All they want is a modicum of dignity, a smattering of understanding and maybe some acknowledgement.]
#1: Day before yesterday 20 soldiers were martyred in Manipur
20 Souls they were
Planning their departure from their beloved motherland, leaving their
burned bodies behind.
20 Souls they were
Who took an oath to protect their motherland through their selfless service.
As they prepared their departure they took a glance at their bodies; they were burned, torn and unrecognisable.
The smell of burning human flesh was sickening, “let’s depart soon”, they said.
“Had it been for burning flesh of animals or cows it would have been
of much interest to Media at least”.
As they went up the sky they glanced down, the life was normal and
peaceful in the country.
All they could hear in the TV sets were news of mangoes and yoga.
All they could see in the TV screens were the smiling face of the guard at the mango orchard.
All they could read in the social media were scandals, IIT and Periyar.
Nameless they are because they aren’t the victims of Uber Kissing Scandals.
Nameless they are because they aren’t the drivers who accompanied the Khan.
Nameless they are because they aren’t the victims of human rights violations.
Nameless they are because they are the MEN IN UNIFORM.
#2 Lament from a CO
ये कूचे, ये नीलामघर दिलकशी के
ये लुटते हुए कारवाँ ज़िन्दगी के
कहाँ हैं, कहाँ है, मुहाफ़िज़ ख़ुदी के
जिन्हें नाज़ है हिन्द पर वो कहाँ हैं
This is not a post for the weak hearted and Adarsh Liberals so do not go any further if you are out of your comfort zone.
It really pains a soldier’s heart if the blood of his brethren is not adequate to galvanize a nation.
This nation is so ungrateful, the intelligentsia so spineless and intellectual class so bigoted that they will get mobilised by tragedies of Peshawar, Gaza or France however they are immune to our own suffering.
I will tell you why, because it is fashionable to get associated with a global cause, it makes you look cool, it is easier to talk about it sipping a single malt in a comfortable South Delhi mansion.
I do not condone any of the terror attacks that happened anywhere in the world, not even in Pakistan.
However, I would be candid, a terror attack in Peshawar wherein brethren of one enemy is killed by another has very limited relevance for me. I am aware I would be lynched for this statement but I would hold my ground.
Ask anyone who has lifted the coffin of his brother, his comrade, how heavy is the load, it has the dreams of a young wife, it has the future of his children and hopes of his parents.
My dear countrymen, it is far heavier than a small coffin.
Few of you will also chide me by saying that soldiers are paid to die. No sir, you are entirely incorrect.
Soldiers are paid to protect the integrity of the nation, if you want canon fodder, hire mercenaries.
This soldier is even denied a decent last journey, his bullet riddled remains are kept in a dilapidated parking yard in Delhi Airport as the designated place does not have the security clearance. The same place is opened every Thursday for devotees as there is a Peer Baba located there.
Thank lord for small mercies that his olive green comrades will go out of their way to give him a befitting final journey.
His kids and wife are then part of an archaic system where pay stops the next day and pension starts in minimum 4-5 months albeit with arrears.
Somebody ask these intellectuals do they even bother to think about a household where there will be no salary for five months but the stomach won’t stop growling, the school fee won’t stop and the electricity bill is still required to be paid.
The average youth of the nation also disappoints here, he is more bothered about mounting losses on Nestle and the two minute gruel. No candlelight march for his soldier, no white cap for his protector. Somehow, misery of Gaza always outshines misery of his own country.
Coming to polity and bureaucracy, the less said the better. If initial reports are to be believed, they are contemplating deinduction of armed forces from the areas where the encounter took place. As a result, the brothers of the slain will be denied even a chance to seek retribution.
Last but certainly not the least, the most disappointing facet, the harbinger of moral compass, the fourth estate, the Media. Death of a soldier doesn’t sell, period. So why even bother.
A soldier is aware of the dangers involved in the life he has chosen. He also understands that every other profession is as important and everybody can not fight. Just give him dignity when he is alive and mourn for him when he fades away. That’s it, nothing more, nothing less.
I would end this note with an anecdote. Lt Saurabh Kalia who was one of the first casualty of Kargil War did not die of a gun shot wound. When his body was returned by Pakistan, his eyes had been gouged out, his ears and nose had been chopped, his entire body had cigarette and electric current burn marks, and his private parts had been cut and stuffed in his mouth and his mouth was sewn up. He was alive during the entire ordeal. Try selling the idea of ‘Aman ki Asha’ to his parents who were not allowed to see their son for one last time, try selling it to his comrades who indeed saw the body.
Reconciliation comes easy in a comfortable home, not in an unforgiving bunker.
ज़रा मुल्क के रहबरों को बुलाओ
ये कुचे, ये गलियाँ, ये मंजर दिखाओ
जिन्हें नाज़ है हिन्द पर उनको लाओ
जिन्हें नाज़ है हिन्द पर वो कहाँ हैं