This Army Day act to preserve honour
by Simrit Kahlon on 15 Jan 2013 3 Comments

Every year January 15 is celebrated as Army Day. It marks the day the first Indian soldier, General KM Cariappa, took over as commander-in-chief of the Indian Army. The nation had every reason to be proud to have an Indian at the helm of its forces. In those idealistic days, we as a nation took pride in our nationality and accorded to our country the same status as accorded to our mothers. We vowed to guard and protect her person from any kind of foreign ingression or intrusion. The Armed Forces have in a very exemplary manner upheld this holy mandate time and again, whether it was the Pakistani aggression of 1947- 48, the Chinese in 1962, Pakistan again in 1965, the war for liberation of East Bengal in 1971 which also saw hostilities on the western front, the Kargil war of 1999 or the many foreign sponsored insurgencies in our territory.


This year too, Army Day celebrations will be replete with expression of pride in being an independent, sovereign and powerful entity in the global community. The Indian Army will renew its pledge to serve, preserve and guard the honour of our country. But one wonders (this year specially) whether Army Day celebrations should solely be observed, conducted and celebrated by the Indian Army. Does the nation have nothing to offer to its forces in return for their untiring endeavours in its service?


My thoughts fly to the gruesome event of recent days and the inadequate national response to the same. Two of our soldiers patrolling the Indian side of the line of control were attacked by Pakistani miscreants (either troops or Jihadis or both) who had sneaked inside our territory; the throat of one Indian soldier was slit, the other’s head chopped off and carried away as a gruesome trophy.


This is a grievous attack on the honour of a very honourable force. The Indian Army’s honour must be avenged at all costs. The Indian Army has not reacted because of its inherent discipline that has never allowed it to overstep its mandate. It possesses the ability to absorb grievous hurt with immense dignity and grace.


Two great pillars of our country, the media and the political leadership of the country, are instruments of expression of the opinion of a billion-plus Indians. Regrettably, their response has been sadly lacking in support to our army and our men.


In an effort to project themselves as fair, the media, especially the electronic (TV) segment, has been seeking the opinion of Pakistani experts on the subject. These foreign elements have assaulted the collective sensibility of the nation with their sniggering at the discipline of the Indian Army and have blamed it of misconduct. Indians may look towards this with revulsion, but other world powers may find seize these arguments for an absolutely gross debate. 


The matter does not end here. There are a number of so-called Indian defense analysts who have openly castigated our army and openly alleged that such transgressions have been made by our force also on earlier occasions, and that such things are ‘normal’ along the line of control. Has Pakistan ever told the international community that India has done such a dastardly deed; has Pakistan ever shown mutilated corpses of its jawans to the Red Cross or the UN? Has anyone heard a Pakistani veteran or journalist make such a comment against its army or nation? How anyone can justify such an unprovoked gruesome act and how can the Indian media allow itself to be used for this purpose?


The Congress-led government is no less. It has yet to express unstinted and forceful solidarity with the forces; the few statements made in this regard are weak and ineffectual. The Home Minister who has earlier visited Jammu and Kashmir at the drop of a hat, ostensibly to assuage the sentiments of the aggrieved civilian population, has yet to commiserate with the forces in their hour of grief. It took the Defence Minister four days to talk about the need to maintain the Army’s prestige. As of now, all that these political mandarins can think of is continuing the peace process and the fragile trade ties – which Pakistan has disrupted, not India!


If this is the attention we pay to the morale of our forces, they may soon become demoralised to the extent of seeing no reason to stick their necks out for a country that does not value them or their sacrifices. Indian must act to preserve the honour of its soldiers if it is to preserve itself.


At the Kargil War Memorial, some very moving words have been inscribed: “…and how can a man die better than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers, for the temples of his Gods.”


Unfortunately while our men in uniform have the ability and the sense of honour to make such supreme sacrifices, we beneficiaries of their sacrifices have failed to find a way to adequately express our gratitude. As the nation observes Army Day this year, it should be with this humbling thought in our hearts and minds.


The author teaches at DAV College, Chandigarh

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