Why this Kargil martyr's daughter is angry about how India doesn't respect its Army
The men in uniform who protect us day and night are now not allowed to feel at peace about their families back home.
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I’ve been paying a heavy price for your freedom ever since I was a little girl, all of eight years old. I’m one of the few Indians who’s paid a heavy price for your freedom and it hurts to see the country that my father sacrificed his life for. He deserved to live more than most of you because if he had a chance to stay alive, he’d be busy making a real difference with his existence instead of complaining aimlessly because "convenience" is not a gentleman officer’s way of life.
Since I know that he’d have continued performing his duties just like every other soldier without expecting anything in return from you, the citizens of this country, I’d talk for him like I’ve been for a while now. I’d talk for him because I’m not as selfless as him and I don’t intend to be.
To start with, I feel sorry. I feel sorry that you don’t realise the importance of the freedom you have today because otherwise, you’d be doing something better with the time in your hands. But I can’t blame you because our education system is too flawed to teach you the importance of what you have today and what you can be tomorrow.
In a country where we rely on the armed forces for practically everything, we have a defence minister who takes decisions against their well-being.
If our education system was not the way it is, we’d have understood deeply what it takes to run the most populous democracy in the world with the not-so-friendly neighbours — China and Pakistan. However, most of us do remember from our social studies books that India is a sovereign, socialist, secular and democratic republic.
The Preamble to the Constitution of India may have meant a lot of things when it came into effect on January 26, 1950, but today, it means "hypocrisy" to me. We are not a country that’s independent and free of harm, externally. The wealth remains in the hands of a few and with the onset of the nationalism epidemic, religion overpowers equality anyday. The one element that probably remains is that we’re a democratic republic so the power is derived from people but then there’s ‘chalta hai’ attitude that comes to rescue to keep the argument going. Thank your stars that this attitude hasn’t creeped into the armed forces that is responsible for keeping you alive.
Unfortunately, we live in a country where people need to be told to build toilets to take a dump. Unfortunately, we live in a country where there needs to be a bait to keep daughters alive and educated.
Unfortunately, we live in a country where adolescents not only rape women but kill them brutally after.
Unfortunately, we live in a country where alive and free citizens have to be begged to respect their selfless, underpaid, and mostly anonymous, life saviours. The Indian armed forces.
Unfortunately, we live in a country that keeps politics above all but dreams of becoming a superpower in the absence of super problem solvers.
Does this seem like the most trustworthy nation to you? A nation that’s among the top ten dangerous countries in the world to even visit. To me, it doesn’t for a second.
The men in uniform who protect us day and night, lose lives in wars, attacks and natural disasters while saving us, are now not allowed to feel at peace about their families back home.
As I write this opinion piece, I imagine a terrorist reading the headline “Army barricades lifted, Cantt roads open to all” while gearing up for the next attack for after the “trial period” of this order. I can also imagine a smirk on their faces and that smirk would be justified because they’d be reminiscing about the attacks in Sunjwan, Pathankot, Gurdaspur, Uri, Akhnoor and a hundred other terror attacks that will be so much easier to plan now. I won’t be surprised if they write a "thank you" letter to Mrs Nirmala Sitharaman after or before.
In BJP leader Sudhanshu Mittal’s words, while the flaws in this order that he doesn’t know whose issues are “rectified”, we should sit and watch the show. That’s a different story of how (ir)responsible we are as one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.
In a country where we rely on the Indian armed forces for practically everything, we have a defence minister who takes decisions against their well-being at a drop of a hat.
Does this make you feel safer and freer fellow civilian Indian? The men in uniform who protect us day and night, lose lives in war exercises, attacks and wars, and in natural disasters while saving us, the public, are now not allowed to feel at peace about their families back home. Now, just like them, their families will have to hide their identities on social media.
For what it’s worth, I’m glad that a soldier at least gets a "21-gun salute" for sacrificing his life for the country, but in the way things are going, I’m not sure how long will this honour last.
India has the largest voluntary army in the world, it’s true. It’s also true that while most countries can’t afford to involve the armed forces in internal security, we enjoy and sometimes exploit the luxury of having the second largest standing army in the world. So much so that we find it apt to “order” our soldiers in uniform who “chose” to fight for your freedom, to wipe off the mess that we’ve created on the streets, literally and metaphorically, for “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan”. After all, we give our "jawans" who play the most important role in war-like scenarios and attacks, the status of "unskilled labour" to justify their cringeworthy wages for putting their life at risk everyday for us.
The argument of "higher the risk, higher the return" does not hold true for our soldiers apparently because education beats all, even if it’s at the cost of various lives, including the lives of the teenagers committing suicide over their board exams.
To quote from my book - “they were ordinary men with extraordinary courage”. That’s the story of their lives, because without determination, courage and the undying love for this country, they have no other reason to voluntarily wake up every morning to die for their countrymen. The countrymen who want to rob them off the most basic security or perks for their families that once helped them sleep at night in places devoid of oxygen and network.
We have real problems to deal with in this country. Problems that need so much more attention than entertaining the whims and fancies of local MPs and few ignorant citizens. I’m still shocked about the fact that many cantt roads are still wide open while we debate this illogical decision of now martyring our soldiers’ families while the country goes to the dogs.
We have at least one "Nirbhaya" case every year. We have ministers, authorities in power, who blame “chow mein” and “jeans” for the ever-growing rape cases. We have data leaking out to China every second through all the investments they’ve made in Indian businesses. We have a country where caste and religion are huge issues that more often than not lead to riots, protests and killings.
However, our armed forces are expected to be superhumans of some form, even though only a few of them are awarded the Param Vir Chakra. While we’re unable to keep at peace with each other, our own countrymen, we want them, the superhumans, to fight for us as a team with other countries while we exploit the freedom that’s costing them their lives.
So, forgive me if I offend you but you most probably don’t deserve the freedom you have today. The freedom my father gave his life for.
Also, the next time you try to say “please remove the army from this cantonment to a far away place so we can expand our business establishments”, read about the wars India fought in 1961, 1965 and 1999 without letting you feel a tremor of it. Try expanding your business without the peace and comfort you have today, and we’ll talk them.
Let’s face it. If you push the army to a corner, there will come a time where they’ll be compelled to quit the forces and with the declining demand for this "thankless" profession, there may never be replacements. Do pray to God then that by the time this situation occurs, India is as crime-free as Norway or Switzerland.
For you my civilians friends, I know it’ll all come down to one thing again, “I pay tax so I deserve the freedom”. But to you I’d like to say - I’ll give you a million dollars tomorrow for a job that may result in you dying day after tomorrow — will you take the job?
So, enjoy this freedom and use it wisely since you have it today. You may not have it tomorrow.