Monday, December 29, 2008

One supreme sacrifice, please. No extra cheese.

It will never fail to astound the unfamiliar just how easily India as a nation digests the deaths of its soldiers. A Lebanese friend of mine from Wales (where we went to grad school together) wrote to me recently. He said he was hoping to make a visit to India soon, but that he did not wish to impose on my time. Why? Let me quote him here: "You must be endlessly busy covering last rites of your valiant soldiers in Mumbai and Kashmir. I could not possibly pull you away from that." I've written back to him urging him to take the next flight to India. You see he's Lebanese, and is used to a phenomenal amount of public respect for his country's armed forces personnel, when they are brought back to Beirut in flag-draped wooden coffins. India and Lebanon are two nations that are as different as they come, in every possible way -- historically, governmentally, economically, socially. And yet, how different really?

Well for starters, in India we are so deeply desensitized to the death of a soldier that it has completely lost its power to make us stop and grieve. Completely. The martyr's day ceremony at Amar Jawan Jyoti is a pipsqueak affair that the average Joe doesn't give two shits about. What should be a sobre day filled with memory and unstinted adulation for the sacrificial lives, is a non-event attended by the three chiefs and a handful of uniformed hangers on. A fauji kid I know recently argued passionately with me about what Vijay Diwas really commemmorated -- it turns out that not only was she patently wrong, but that also hadn't a clue about what her decorated Colonel father received an Ashok Chakra in 1972 for. What I'm trying to say, simply, is that the person on the street has none of the mindspace for the soldier that he or she damn well should.

The commodification of the soldier is deep rooted. As a nation, we'd hate to admit it, but we consider the personnel of our armed forces far more expendable than others simply because somewhere deep down inside, we rationalise that the forces carry their worlds with them, and have the depth of numbers to cushion a handful of fatalities every now and then. And that, hey, it's a dangerous job but someone's gotta do it. The point is all of this applies to every other country and every other armed force in the world as well.

A seeringly simple example would be the "bhavpoorna shraddhanjali" banners that mushroomed across Mumbai during the terrorist seige, paying homage to the trio of senior police officers (Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte, Vijay Salaskar -- let's find someone who doesn't recognise those names) who were killed. It took at least five more days before someone noticed that this was brutally narrow. And so up came a banner, almost as an afterthought, at Churchgate, adding Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan's name to the trinity. There's no picking at straws here. I was in the city. It was an afterthought. Thank heavens for afterthoughts.

The faintly disturbing thing about all this is that even systemic insensitivity, which was long recognised as a snake coiled up within the innards of South Block, streaked naked across the Indian public conscience this year. Of course, I'm talking about Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw's funeral in Wellington (let's have anyone remember the date). The government's audacity in even allowing its real sentiments about the forces to show, sent the goodwill of mourners reeling. What a time they chose to do it!

I'm always reminded of a line from A Few Good Men. And even though the officer saying it in the film is the antagonist, the sentiment holds just fine:

"We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use them as the backbone of a life spent trying to defend something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said 'thank you', and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest that you pick up a weapon and stand a post."

28 comments :

Anonymous said...

Dear Shiv,

Very well written and touching article... but why its that police guys get the recognition and not the faujis?? what do u see as reason for this?? i feel fauj does not know how to handle media... secondly i feel that u media guys also do not listen to your conscience (barring few like u)... no tv channel has even named sushma nath, for her misdeeds in the pay anomalies fiasco, in any of their reports... why?? why u are not doing any story on the delays in resolving the anomalies?? answer is u guys also can't do without the support of these babus... u need licenses for your channels... isn'tit?? paapi pet ka sawaal hai... and what can fauj give u... may be few pegs of whisky...practically nothing...so u also vent out your feelings like me on the blog... i will be happier if u do the same thing on your news channel...

Anonymous said...

well meaning and said artical, but shiv how many are to read it and understand it will do so? i wish as you should make this point on live tv and ask our country men why they behave like this?

Anonymous said...

Dear Shiv you have touched a chord with this article and I wonder have our politicians become so insensitive and the nation insensitive towards the cause of soldiers. In fact the babooz have dug the last nail in the cofffin of honour where in all know THAT AN OFFICER IS LOWER THEN ANYBODY JUST ABOUT ANYBODY. I am sure the forces deserve better.

Anonymous said...

Shiv

You've surpassed yourself this time. but i ponder, why this sympathy/concern at the fag end of the year, when we were asking for all help we could get from the media in the past three months? why , why ?
Maverick

Rajesh said...

Shiv,
What u have said will remain such -as words. Being a fauji kid and a fauji myself, I don't know how many parents would prefer(or even suggest it) their wards choose this profession today. How many would prefer their daughters marry a fauji? People who don't give the desired respect to the defence forces are condemned to rot in hell. But, this is the sad fact of life - 'Ghar ki murgi daal barabbar'. Conscription is the only answer to this disrespect.

Anonymous said...

Good Article Shiv...Very touching..Will any of the print magazines publish it? I don't think so..I was in Israel a couple of years back during the Remembrance Day (its the day before Independence day. On this day the whole country salutes the dead soldiers, the military graveyards are full of people and can you believe it, their is no television broadcast, no news paper nothing.
We in this country do not even have a memorial for armed forces.

Anonymous said...

The media has an important role to play here. Let us consider some things:

1. A strong, well armed and well motivated military is essential for the survival of this nation. We are not Germany or Portugal who have no enemies and can afford an emasculated military.

2. The military's morale is at an all-time low. And falling lower by the day.

What can we do? Build a consensus. To fix this. And to make sure That this will never happen again.

How?

1. Constitutional protection for the seniority of armed forces officers. An amendment to the consitution which enumerates a seniority based on years of service, with a 3 year ante date seniority for the armed forces, over the apex civil service, considering the fact that the military training is not considered for seniority purposes presently.

2. Constitutional protection for the posts of service chiefs.

3. Constitutional provison for a CDS, and placement of same above the cabinet secretary on the warrant of precedence, and assignment of de facto and de jure National Security Advisor status to the post.

4. Reorganisation of the ministry of defence. Transformation of the secretariat function to defence officers. Defence secretary to be a 4 star post, rotating between services.

LOKESH said...

The sad state of affairs of the lies in the lack of faith of our politicians in our armed forces constantly fueled by our bureaucracy to make their own ends meet ..... constantly citing the example of our neighbors ....not realising that the state of their armed forces and political apathy is a product their social degradation and anti India sentiments nurtured for generations ...and the same has now become for all ... politicians, army and the nation itself.
Our nation has to realise this before imagining the picture that one day the army would stage a coup in India...... The social setup, the training or anything imaginable cannot lead to the army staging a coup in our country. The earlier our politicians understand this the better it is for our nation.

AGworld said...

The reason behind this neglect for soldiers is very easy to understand because the chattering classes are totally insulated from the consequences of poor law and order (and national security).

The chattering classes never become soldiers. Its only the poor gorkhas or some such.

In countries like israel, with compulsory conscription, being a solider -- and the fear of death, especially if caused by our own negligence -- is tangible to everyone, chattering classes included.

If (and i don't think it will happen in our lifetimes) india moves towards mandatory conscription into the police or army, attitudes towards soldiers' deaths will change overnight, because it will be kids of napean sea road residents (in mumbai) who will be facing pakistani (or chinese, or these days even bangladeshi) lead.

I for one will be delighted, if good-for-nothing youth like Raul Maino (aka rahul gandhi) and sachin pilot have to man a post.
They will see for themselves, the horrendous results of their total abdication of responsibility in this sphere.

Armchair Grumbler said...

Dear Shiv,

Year 2008 was indeed the most disgraceful one for the Armed Forces. At the cost of repeating ad nauseum the obvious, the Armed Forces were stabbed in the back by the IAS lobby and the PM and his 3 wise men did not credit to themselves by negating or agreeing to some changes without explaining to the Nation from the ramparts of South Block why they agreed to some and disagreed to one.

Were the recommendations that stood corrected wrong in the first place? If they were wrong then why didn't the guilty get punished? Vilas Rao Deshmukh had to resign because he took along a film director. Why haven't the Cab Secy or the expenditure secretary been asked for their resignations?

If grade pay equivalent to the IAS was not agreeable, would the PM condescend to inform the Armed Forces why?

I do not wish to predict that perhaps Dr Manmohan Singh will find it difficult to live down the jibes that the leader of the opposition repeatedly labels him with? May be that is Dr Manmohan Singh's place in history - at the bottom and he needed good, clean company. Who will provide him that? Not the politicians, not the IAS, IPS but those individuals that he has dragged down to the depths - the Armed Forces.

Jai Jawan. Jai Hind

Anonymous said...

We Indians have been slaves for past 1000 yrs ( a Mellenium)- Mughals, Britishers etc and are Independent only for the past 60 yrs. Arent we people are forcing the history to repeat by doing what all has been done in 2008. If the attitude of people will not change towards the soldier gaurding the nation it is only matter of time to go back to those black days.

Anonymous said...

Shiv

You have definitely stood along side the Armed Forces with this touching article. But it would better serve its purpose if it was published in 'mainstream media', say print or TV which is accessed by greater numbers of people. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

And the cost of insuting the soldier??? Destuction of the idea of India-destruction of India. Talibans at India gate. When??? May be 15 years. And nothing can stop it. Nobody will learn anything and when they learn it will be too late. You cannot destroy and remake armies everyday. Once the Army is gone it is gone for good . Kill the Army as Indians are doing it now and when you try and reraise it you would prabably get something like Behar Police or the CRPF. The scene is scary. Why is India trying to commit harakiri. It is time to begin migrating from this sick land which humilates and demoralises the people who defend it with their blood- who cut the branch on which they sit. Who bite the hand which feeds them. Is not such a society sick and not likely to die. And is it not wise to migrate away from this dangerous place.

Anonymous said...

One thousand year ago anyone in Kabul who ran out of cash or pretty women had to just muster 400 horsemen and march down the plains of Punjab looting and plundering and raping at will since those days there was no one to defend India and the Indian people. The invader then carried on to Delhi and had a good time plundering and raping and butchering the citizens at will at his own time. After finishing his job he would return victoriously with Delhi reduced to dust with trains of young women and handsome slaves and all the booty. This continued for last one thousand years with frequency of about ten to twenty years. So sure was the certainity of this loot plunder and humiliation of India that people of punjab developed a trait of eating drinking and enjoying what ever they had since it in anycase is going to be taken away " KHADA PEETA LAI DA BAKI NADU SHAHE DA" meaning yours is only what you eat drink and put on ; the rest belongs to Nadir Shah. These threats have stopped only after providential appearance of the Indian Army which has ensure that out Western border is secure from the barbarians. Nothing has changed otherwise ; the barbarian with their old designs are still waiting at Kabul and Peshawar ; the only thing they rue is this stubborn Indian Army which is holding this line in the West of the nation. Today going by the discourse in the media and the opinions being expressed by some friends on the net it seems a deliberate effort is on to demoralise the Indian Army so that the society can get back to enjoying the forced genetic mixing of the Indian blood from the West.They are trying to do what Taliban and the ISI in last so many decades have failed to do. The mindless triade against forces by people like that imbecile Shekhar Gupta appears to be a natural genetic urge of a civilisaion used to periodic plunder and rape and forced genetic enrichment. The only force which is preventing this are the defence forces and hence the campaign against them. Pardon me I may be being disrespectful to a civilization which has a natural urge to assimilate other cultures but I could think of no other reason for the deliberate humiliation of the soldiers by the society that he is protecting with his life. Please put me wise if there is some other reason. Warm regards to All

Anonymous said...

One thousand year ago anyone in Kabul who ran out of cash or pretty women had to just muster 400 horsemen and march down the plains of Punjab looting and plundering and raping at will since those days there was no one to defend India and the Indian people. The invader then carried on to Delhi and had a good time plundering and raping and butchering the citizens at will at his own time. After finishing his job he would return victoriously with Delhi reduced to dust with trains of young women and handsome slaves and all the booty. This continued for last one thousand years with frequency of about ten to twenty years. So sure was the certainity of this loot plunder and humiliation of India that people of punjab developed a trait of eating drinking and enjoying what ever they had since it in anycase is going to be taken away " KHADA PEETA LAI DA BAKI NADU SHAHE DA" meaning yours is only what you eat drink and put on ; the rest belongs to Nadir Shah. These threats have stopped only after providential appearance of the Indian Army which has ensure that out Western border is secure from the barbarians. Nothing has changed otherwise ; the barbarian with their old designs are still waiting at Kabul and Peshawar ; the only thing they rue is this stubborn Indian Army which is holding this line in the West of the nation. Today going by the discourse in the media and the opinions being expressed by some friends on the net it seems a deliberate effort is on to demoralise the Indian Army so that the society can get back to enjoying the forced genetic mixing of the Indian blood from the West.They are trying to do what Taliban and the ISI in last so many decades have failed to do. The mindless triade against forces by people like that imbecile Shekhar Gupta appears to be a natural genetic urge of a civilisaion used to periodic plunder and rape and forced genetic enrichment. The only force which is preventing this are the defence forces and hence the campaign against them. Pardon me I may be being disrespectful to a civilization which has a natural urge to assimilate other cultures but I could think of no other reason for the deliberate humiliation of the soldiers by the society that he is protecting with his life. Please put me wise if there is some other reason. Warm regards to All

Anonymous said...

One thousand year ago anyone in Kabul who ran out of cash or pretty women had to just muster 400 horsemen and march down the plains of Punjab looting and plundering and raping at will since those days there was no one to defend India and the Indian people. The invader then carried on to Delhi and had a good time plundering and raping and butchering the citizens at will at his own time. After finishing his job he would return victoriously with Delhi reduced to dust with trains of young women and handsome slaves and all the booty. This continued for last one thousand years with frequency of about ten to twenty years. So sure was the certainity of this loot plunder and humiliation of India that people of punjab developed a trait of eating drinking and enjoying what ever they had since it in anycase is going to be taken away " KHADA PEETA LAI DA BAKI NADU SHAHE DA" meaning yours is only what you eat drink and put on ; the rest belongs to Nadir Shah. These threats have stopped only after providential appearance of the Indian Army which has ensure that out Western border is secure from the barbarians. Nothing has changed otherwise ; the barbarian with their old designs are still waiting at Kabul and Peshawar ; the only thing they rue is this stubborn Indian Army which is holding this line in the West of the nation. Today going by the discourse in the media and the opinions being expressed by some friends on the net it seems a deliberate effort is on to demoralise the Indian Army so that the society can get back to enjoying the forced genetic mixing of the Indian blood from the West.They are trying to do what Taliban and the ISI in last so many decades have failed to do. The mindless triade against forces by people like that imbecile Shekhar Gupta appears to be a natural genetic urge of a civilisaion used to periodic plunder and rape and forced genetic enrichment. The only force which is preventing this are the defence forces and hence the campaign against them. Pardon me I may be being disrespectful to a civilization which has a natural urge to assimilate other cultures but I could think of no other reason for the deliberate humiliation of the soldiers by the society that he is protecting with his life. Please put me wise if there is some other reason. Warm regards to All

Anonymous said...

why so much of outcry on killing of student by army in bangalore? can anyone enlighten please??

Jadev,india said...

This thing always baffled me too..Did govt or we cared about death of jawans shot dead by bangldeshi smugglers/rangers when "toughie" NDA ruled..they just "strongly condemned it..full stop". Another incident that spins my head is when flag meeting was called recently at LoC, the Pak army people came with white flag and shot dead one of our jawans cowardly. Another meeting was supposedly called and "misunderstanding" sorted out..
WHAT THE FCUK IS WRONG WITH US..
If it was US or Europeans there would have been at least a armed response if not a full-scale war. Look how Israel is looking for their kidnapped soldiers. They even exchanged a child-killer in exchange for dead bodies of their soldiers from Hezbollah even when their intel told them that in all probability they were all dead. Israel is still searching for a pilot Hezbollah captured in the 70s or 80s. Hats off to Israelis and shame on us/me for treating our jawans like expendable items. To add insult to injury our CM had the audacity and false pride to compare major unnikrishanan to a dog!!!!!!!

Prashanth said...

Very nice article buddy.

Anonymous said...

I want to share a link with you which I have found on a Pakistani Defence Forum. Do you think our neighbors are not watching? Hmm? Who is responsible for the pay commission fracas? And who in government is ensuring that this happens?


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#1 04-08-2008, 11:17 AM
Boota Masih
Registered User Join Date: Nov 2001
Posts: 1,955

107 defence officers seek premature exit

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

107 defence officers seek premature exit
8 Apr 2008, 1725 hrs IST,PTI

SMS NEWS to 58888 for latest updates
NEW DELHI: Already hit by shortage of officers, the armed forces are facing a sudden spurt in exodus of senior ranks, apparently not satisfied with the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations.

A total of 107 Army, Navy and Air Force officers have put in their papers seeking premature exit in the last fortnight after the Pay Commission submitted its report on March 24.

"There could be more exits in the offing as officers in the ranks of Lieutenant Colonel, Colonel and even higher are not happy with the mere 15 per cent hike recommended by the Pay Commission", a senior officer said.

In normal circumstances, the Army processes about 2-4 premature retirement papers a week. But in the past two to three weeks, the figure has jumped to almost 10-15 officers, he said.

This exodus is hitting the armed forces with the Army already facing a shortage of more than 11,000 officers, the navy about 3,000 and the air force about 6,000.

This shortage of officers is being sorely felt at the operational level where formations are now operating with just 12-14 officers as against a sanctioned strength of 25 officers.

In a new measure, the Army has enforced a system whereby non-commissioned officers and junior commissioned officers are taking on role of officers, especially in insurgency- affected deployments.

Anonymous said...

bortha, to u have pics of the HJT36 Sitara engines that arrived today? plssssss share...

Anonymous said...

Pranab Da wants to scale down the war hysteria. But, isn’t he the one who started it to divert the Nation attention to the fact that the Congress is the abetting Political wing of the terrorists. First the chap along with Chidambaram and Anthony tries to bully the Pakis. When they the Pakis go on the offensive and the US abandons us for their own policies the GOI finds itself an international destitute. Now when the Pakis carry out Air Defence exercises over their major cities against surgical strikes it is flashed as an offensive act. Why have we been reduced to this state of international inconsequence and incompetence?
The brash grant of powers of governance to an incompetent bureaucracy by a politically unsure polity led by a suspect foreigner is the bane of Indian Civic Administration.
One Sushant K Singh in his blog goes gaga over the antics of politicians and their civil (?) servants (?). He Pragmatically (?) wants to hold the armed forces accountable while condoning the most heinous of malgovernance by the political and bureaucratic class. He is blissfully amnesic that these are the people who are responsible for the civic decline of the over One Billion Indian Nation and they fester since they do not share the blame or are held responsible. Some of his agent provocateurs are often seen on other blogs spreading the same pattern of acrimony against the armed forces.
Do you just get up and go to war? We have Armed forces which is deeply suspicious of the Polity and hostile to the chicanery of the Bureaucrats. They feel that they will be abandoned once the War is over and then it will be talk of rhetoric’s and lack of funds. In fact other governmental groups will be incited to disrespect the armed forces and this will be used to deny the armed forces their dues. What have those who went to war in 1947, 1962, 1965, 1971, Siachen, CI Ops, Sri Lanka got? The Govt finds granting status and OROP ‘difficult’. Going to war overnight for their follies is ‘not difficult’.
The RBI officially declares that only 51000 Crores are required for waiver of farmer’s loans but the Govt gives 71000 Crores. Why? Party funds for the elections? Now you know who the terrorists are? These people cannot give even a fragment of that to the Armed forces and Veterans. Subversion? With the recent humiliation at hands of its own Govt. do you think the Armed forces will be a motivated force? Rhetoric’s apart, let us be real.

The Polity thinks that you just wake up and go to war. Simple! It is said that ‘War is too serious a business to be left to the Generals’.
In India, War is too serious a business to be left to the Politicians and Bureaucrats’.

Now the Maharashtra Govt has announced a probe. The results are clear. The DGP Police, the Police Commissioner, the Chief Secretary and Home Secretary will be exonerated and maybe even commended for their gallantry. What Hogwash! If the media does get hostile (which is a remote possibility now that the media also plays to the bureaucratic gallery) then, maybe the juniors like the Police Commissioner and some junior officers like IGs and DIGs might buy it. And the Punishment – a transfer or suspension for a year. That’s the value of the lives of 200 Indians.

Anonymous said...

WATCH THIS --
http://www.youtube.com/v/G1EX1MQo2LI

THE ITALIAN MADAMME WITH THE HIJDA SARDAR AND HER WIMPS FIND OROP NOT FEASIBLE BUT -- PENSION FOR THE TERRORISTS IS OKAY.

SURGICAL STRIKES ARE NEEDED IN INDIA AND NOT IN PAKISTAN IF IT WANTS TO RID ITSELF OF ITSELF OF THESE TERRORISTS CELLS CALLED THE UPA AND THE IAS.

Anonymous said...


WISH THE ITALIAN MAFIA MISTRESS AND HER HAREM (the MoD Jokers included) A LOUSY 2009

TOPPED WITH A LOT OF SLEAZE

LIKE THE IAS PALMS THAT THE INDIANS GREASE.

sniperz11 said...

That was one hell of a brilliant piece, and quite true.

We as a nation love to indulge in theatrics, and stereotyped responses, with neither the feeling, nor the belief. Unlike the chinese, we don't have a collective memory, and neither do we have an individual push.

Like a temporary gust of wind, we respond, and immediately die down. Perhaps this response is to simple justify and soothe our guilty consciences - This is why we saw such an outpouring of emotions for the heros after 26/11, and the protests at the Taj.

However, even that was a directed affair, simply because people's consciences were pricked by the equally tempestous media coverage - after all, how many people actually went to Omble's funeral? How many people know the people who died? How many have cared to find out the exact death toll???

We suffer from bouts of faux emotions between oceans of uncaring neglect. When a Rang De shows candlelight vigils, and pricks our consciences, we go bonkers, and do nothing but, for the next one year. When news media shows a Jessica Lall, we suddenly wake up, douse our guilt through a nice little kitty-party protest, and go have a nice, peaceful sleep.

All this, and I haven't even got to the security forces.

We expect these forces to defend us, but don't care enough to support their case for parity with us - we wish to put down the very people who've pledged their lives for us. We are loathe to give Jawans a decent wage, or the respect they deserve. We don't even care how many people die in operations, until and unless the media suddenly picks it up and blares it out (Col. Vasanth, for eg).

And we still refuse to give our jawans what they need - today, if you go to an army mess not in a major city, don't be surprised if the omlette you ate came out of some poor jawans rations simply because they aren't given any more. Don't be surprised if in the next war, you still see jawans wearing canvas shoes to battle. And don't blink if you one day find that there aren't enough people to stop the Pakistan army from marching in to Delhi - they were all choked by neglect while you slept.

fighterclass said...

kudos shiv, great article.

Sreedhar said...

Dear Shiv Aroor,

Lots of readers have lots about the article. Now, can I lift the article along with your name and send it to the Press (TOI)? Let all read it and get a feel of how things are?

Lt Col GV Sreedhar(retd)
Bangalore.

Shiv Aroor said...

Lt Col Sreedhar: thanks for writing in. unfortunately none of what's on this blog can be used in a newspaper, since this a personal writing space, and my allegiance lies with a particular media organisation. but do feel free to send the link around if you like!