It was a heartbreaking sight when the mortal remains of braveheart Nitin covered in the Indian tricolour reached his home town Etawah. The young soldier, not quite 24 years of age, had laid down his life fighting bravely against militants who had dared to attack his post.
Belonging to 40th battalion of Border Security Force (BSF), late constable Nitin was deployed at Baramulla where his company was located alongside 46 Battalion of Rashtriya Rifles.
|Nitin and his bunker mate fought bravely, forcing the terrorists to retreat.|
As the details of the operation emerged, it transpired that it was his alertness that saved the day and averted a major terrorist attack.
Nitin was on duty at a bunker on the periphery of the camp with another BSF jawan when the two observed a suspicious movement. Not fearing for his life, Nitin took the searchlight and went out of the bunker, looking for the source of the activity - that was when the terrorist took the first aim injuring the soldier, who continued to retaliate despite being grievously hurt.
His bunker mate gave him support fire and the two jawans fought bravely, forcing the terrorists to retreat. Nitin's injuries were too serious and he subsequently succumbed. The other constable, Pulwinder, is battling for life.
This was a classic example of how BSF jawans are trained to follow battle drills in operational situations. It is telling of how well the BSF jawans are trained and proves they are as good as any other fighting unit in the world.
It is ironic that the BSF, which is the premier border guarding force of the country and fights shoulder to shoulder with the Indian Army, gets little or no coverage and credit for its valiant feats in service of the nation. It is known to only a few that the BSF is the first line of defence and has an important role to play in assisting the Army in its war efforts, which includes carrying out both offensive and defensive operations.
The contribution of the BSF in training "Mukti Bahini" and carrying out raids and preliminary operations in support of the Army operations during the Bangladesh war - when the organisation was still cutting its teeth - is hardly known and our heroes remain unsung. The offensive undertaken by BSF units in Rajasthan and their capture of BOPs is never highlighted. The Vijay Diwas that is celebrated every year passes off without any mention of the role of BSF.
The role played by the BSF in controlling the Naga insurgency and absorbing former Revolutionary Government of Nagaland (RGN) troopers is hardly known to those outside the force.
The list of achievements in a short period of 50 years is long. Starting from Operation Blue Star, to fighting militancy in Punjab in the '80s, then in J&K since the '90s, the Northeast insurgency in Mizoram, Nagaland and Manipur and now in the relentless campaign against Maoist insurgents in Chhattisgarh and Odisha are few examples where the BSF has contributed with its might. Several jawans and officers of the BSF have laid down their lives in the line of duty in carrying out the tasks.
Regrettably, in spite of all such achievements, the BSF and other Central Paramilitary Forces (CPMF) do not get their due. Take the case of the Baramulla operation, BSF jawan Nitin cannot be treated as a martyr, whereas, had an Army jawan fought alongside him and made the ultimate sacrifice, he would have been declared a martyr. The family of the late jawan will not be entitled to any of the benefits given by the state government to a martyr.
Not only this, Nitin's family will also not be honoured with a pension because he had joined service after January 1, 2004 and "civilian" employees joining after the date are not entitled to pension.
Even when he was alive, Nitin was treated as inferior to his Army counterparts with respect to his pay and allowances, much less than that of an Army jawan.
So, we have a situation where an Army jawan performing the same duties as Nitin will be elevated to a high pedestal, while the BSF constable is treated as a "civilian employee" because of the colour of the uniform he wears. It is, therefore, creditable that BSF jawans continue to perform their duties with enthusiasm and zeal year after year without complaining. It is also to the credit of cutting-edge leadership provided by hard core BSF-cadre officers who, in spite of facing acute stagnation and discrimination, continue to keep their command motivated.
I, however, see a silver lining in the coverage by electronic media of the events relating to supreme sacrifice made by the late constable. Perhaps, an unfortunate incident had to take place for the media and the authorities to realise the worth of BSF in the sun.