We have forgotten them and we will forget them again

India has been shaken by the recent terror strike in Mumbai. There are lot of demonstrations and processions going on across the city of Mumbai against the ineptitude of our political leaders. The government of India is also trying its best to dilute the anger of citizens by taking some actions. The citizens of this nation are showering praises on the martyrs. This is not a new thing considering that Indian people have always showed unity in times of crisis, though they have very short memories and forget the sacrifices soon.

The 13th of December was the anniversary of the Parliament attack. How many of us remembered those brave soldiers who ensured that terrorists are stopped at the gate itself and laid down their lives in the process? To show their respect “our responsible MPs” turned to pay tributes and recalled the supreme sacrifice by the security personnel in foiling the attempt of the terrorists. The very next day, there were reports that the family of the martyrs are still struggling to get what was promised to them by our government. The kin of the victims accused the government of not fulfilling the promise of giving them compensation.

Vimla Devi, wife of ASI Nanak Chand, who was killed in the 2001 terrorist attack has said, “We don’t want all these tributes to be paid. I don’t have anything. Nobody listens to us.”

Sardar Singh (62), whose son Om Prakash, a Head Constable died in the attack, said, “We have been pleading with the government officials for so many years. At functions the ministers make tall promises but they forget after that.”

Jaiwati Singh, who lost her husband, Constable Vijendra Singh, is still fighting for her rights. “These days my sister is running from pillar to post to get the promised petrol pump but the officials say they have always had martyrs in the country and they can’t go about giving each one a petrol pump,” her brother Bhram Prakash said. (These are excerpts from a leading daily)

On December 16, we will celebrate Victory Day to commemorate the victory of the 1971 war. But did you know that there are still 54 Indian soldiers incarcerated in Pakistani prisons post the Indo-Pak war of 1971? It is an irony that even after the comprehensive victory, India could not negotiate freedom for her soldiers who were trapped by the enemy in the heat of war. Till this day there families are fighting against all odds but all their requests and pleas have fallen on dear ears. They are even more helpless considering this is an external matter. Today they remain forgotten, mere names in the files lost in the labyrinth of the South Block. It is a collective failure of the entire nation. Forget these incidents, a few days there was a television news where it was shown how one of the parents of the Akshardham temple attack martyrs from the NSG were denied the promise of a petrol pump allocation.

There is no denying the fact that martyrs of wars and those who sacrificed their lives in proxy wars are not being given their due respect. The government over the years has just paid tributes and then isolated the kin of martyrs. As a citizen, we bid goodbye to martyrs saying that we will always remember them but within six weeks everything is forgotten. Families of those brave souls feel alienated after some time. Is this the way our society functions?

The story will be repeated even after this terror strike. Our history is testimony of this. The valour of our martyrs soak in the wetness of our euphoric patriotism and dies soon as everything turns normal.

I bet that hardly anyone of us will remember Hemant Karkare, Vijay Salaskar, Ashok Kamte, Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, Havildar Gajendra Singh and dozen of other martyrs “who failed to hit the headlines” for some unknown reasons. These names will also be lost in the pages of history.

As a nation, we have always displayed only callous indifference towards these soldiers who have fought to preserve the country’s freedom and integrity. Remember, History shows that only those nations survive who honour their soldiers. And this honour should be part of the mind set. If we forget our soldiers in times of peace then it is a betrayal. There are lurking dangers but we sleep peacefully, because we know that the brave soldier is awake. Do we really understand the value of our independence or are we taking it for granted? Are we as a society doing anything to give back something to the families of those brave soldiers who have died for our future apart from raising a memorial and showing anger towards the politicians?

Stand Up for Our Soldiers

VICTORY IN Kargil was certainly a defining moment in the history of Independent India. It was the outcome of supreme sacrifice by the soldiers of this country, displaying valour with dignity. Kargil was not an easy win. The terrain was tough and the enemy was perched comfortably on high mountain peaks. The task was to regain the occupied peaks. The Kargil victory was an extraordinary achievement for the Indian Armed forces as they conducted the war without violating any international norms. July 26 is celebrated as Vijay Divas, to mark the victory in Kargil. The young officers and soldiers were primarily responsible for India’s victory in Kargil. As a grateful citizen of this nation I pay my homage and salute those brave soldiers who “gave their today for our tomorrow.”
Kargil WarBut nine year on I feel that we as a nation are callous towards our soldiers. A soldier lays down his life to protect the integrity of the nation, which is his duty. The duty to live up to the trust of billions of people, duty to save the motherland from enemy, duty to keep the integrity of the country intact. A soldier fulfills all his duties but can the same be applied to Ministry of Defence (MoD) or for that matter to our bureaucrats and politicians. They earned money on the bodies of the martyrs. They even neglected the intelligence failure. Like the other wars Kargil was also converted to genuine victory. India declared ceasefire when Army was ready for the final assault. Nehru’s mistake in calling a ceasefire too early and taking the issue of Kashmir to the United Nations for resolution are fairly well-chronicled, as a starting point for the modern-day Kashmir issue. Under pressure from Mountbatten and personally committed to peace and non-violence, Nehru opted for a civilised resolution to the conflict. The 1965 war with Pakistan did not end in a decisive victory for any one side. When Pakistan captured the Akhnoor and Chicken’s Neck in Kashmir, Shastri’s aggressive reaction of opening war along the entire western front with Pakistan had resulted in the Indian Army making substantial inroads into Pakistan territory and famously coming within striking distance of Lahore. Shastri, for reasons still not quite clear, decided to play a Prithviraj Chauhan to Ayub Khan’s Mohammed Ghouri. He agreed to withdraw the Indian Army from all captured territories, including some strategic territories in Kashmir. 1971 was probably the best opportunity that India had to resolve the Kashmir issue on terms favourable to it. India had come out of the war not only a decisive but also a magnanimous victor. The ceasefire Indira Gandhi unilaterally declared, against the advice of her armed forces commanders, was driven by realpolitik and economic reasons.
We as a citizen join hands and come forward to extend our support to our brave soldiers. But only when there is a war. We forget them during peace time. Why? Why can’t a nation salute its soldiers when he is alive, not just when he is dead?
Few months ago after the recommendations of Sixth Pay Commission, former servicemen staged protest against the recommendation. They said that the Sixth Pay Commission hasn’t met the expectations of the defence personnels. Minister of State for Defence M Pallam Raju voiced displeasure over the protests by the ex-servicemen, saying it was not dignified on their part. I agree with Raju because India is perhaps the only nation where the politicians are not interested in looking into the grievances of the services. The government must realise that they have taken such a step because their demands are very genuine and they have protested as the last resort. If government hopes to solve the trouble with the laid-back attitude then it is trying to fool itself. A nation is as strong as its armed forces. The words like non-violence and world peace are used these days but one must understand that on the international stage you are identified by your defence forces. Unfortunately, government hasn’t woken from slumber. In India, soldiers are treated shabbily, their prestige is often mocked at and their fate is decided by the IAS babus who have earned notoriety for reasons other than providing a clean administration and efficient governance. Hence joining the forces is no longer a matter of pride and preference, consider the number of vacancies the forces have now. When the ugly politicians look down on patriotism and honour of the soldier, we see heroes laid to rest unsung and soldiers committing suicide.
The defence forces are facing shortage of thousands of officers which has been accentuated by the attrition. This year National Defence Academy (NDA), which has the intake of 300 could get only 192 cadets while Indian Military Academy (IMA) got 86 out of 250 intake capacity. The signs are really disappointing and the government must not take it lightly. After independence, Jawaharlal Nehru neglected the army for years and thus China was able to attack India without any hesitation. He himself later admitted this.
The Indian public and press remain apathetic on defence issues as well. Kargil war was duly covered by media. But when the war was over none of the media houses took the issues of unceremonious treatment meted to the families of martyrs. We forgot that our soldiers are still guarding the frontiers. We as a nation never try to understand the sacrifices, problems and demands of the forces. The problems of the forces is not a priority for our politicians. There has been no solution till date concerning to the Sixth Pay Commission report. It may be seen that initially, an IAS officer and defence service officer start off on an equal footing so far their salary is concerned. But after a year or two, an IAS officer is promoted to the post of under secretary which is equivalent to the rank of a Major or equivalent ranks in other wings of defence forces, where as, the officers in defence services attain the rank of a Major after seven years. As such, a wide gap is created in the salary of an under secretary and an officer of the rank of Major and equivalent ranks in the defence forces.