Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The Other Side

One of my friends, who is an officer in the Indian Army, recently posted this article on Facebook. It has been written by one of his close friends.
The officer to men ratio in the Indian Army is approximately 1 is to 160. However during the Kargil conflict the ratio of the casualties was 1 is to 10. These are not mere statistics but speak volumes of the quality of the officer cadre that led their men-from the front. Leading from the front requires raw courage, undying zeal and relentless enthusiasm. How do these boys, no more than 23 years old, an age when their counterparts in the civil society have not even figured out what they want to do in life, are able to muster such a strong sense of purpose as to lead men into fire? This comes from the rigorous training that they are made to go through, toughening the mind, body and spirit. An aggressive spirit is ingrained in them that makes these men to lay down their lives for the cause of a forgetful and ungrateful nation.

The case in question is the recent unfortunate turn events took in Pune resulting in confrontation between the Defence Forces, egged on and catalysed by the media. The aim is not to discuss the events but to give an insight into their cause. Owing to operational and security reasons the defense forces are generally shrouded in a cloud of mystery evoking curiosity and speculations. This not only provides the media with a sea of unexplored opportunity to dig their nose into any issue concerning the Armed forces but also places on them the responsibility to exercise discretion in the publication of any such issue. Care should be taken to ensure that the media’s role does not jeopardize the security of personnel or information and most importantly tarnish the image of the Forces. A country’s Defense Forces symbolize not only its strength but also the character of the nation. A blow served to the image of the Defense Forces not only lowers the morale of the force but also the faith of the common man in them, the biggest boost for the morale of any soldier.

No denying the fact that the course taken by the Army officers in this case was not the best one, neither the wisest. But a careful analysis of the facts will reveal that the belligerents were all young officers in their early twenties. When these officers initially introduced themselves as ‘Army Officers’ all it implied was that they deserved to be treated in a dignified manner, they really were not asking for too much. These men spend months and years of their lives in god forsaken places guarding our frontiers or training- totally aloof from civilization, the only communication to the outside world being occasional letters from near and dear ones. So when a person declares himself as an ‘Army personnel’ it does not mean that he considers himself above rule of law, it only means-
- I have been living far away from civilization in a place you could hardly spot on a map for months so that you can stand here without fear, grant me that respect.
- Expect me not be conversant with the changes that have taken place recently or new signboards that you may have put.

- I have no permanent home and neither does my family and every some years it’s a new town or city I’ve to call home.

- I will someday put my life in peril for you and all my countrymen, expecting nothing but respect and gratitude in return.

- I put my life so often in peril that I know no fear (often misinterpreted as arrogance).
These young men lacked thoughtfulness, agreed, and with some provocation got aggressive. But remember here that these men are trained to be such. A seasoned and reasoning man lacks the spontaneity to jump in the way of fire without heeding for personal safety for no personal gain of his own. It is these young men with this aggression who led the Indian Army to historic victories - for God’s sake, they are not criminals. A matured handling of these officers by the police and subsequent handling of the issue by the media could have averted tarnishing the image of the Armed Forces in the eyes of a gossip happy nation.

I have seen an Army officer's life as closely as possible - as a daughter.
My father has served in the Indian Army for 20+ years. I know all sides of it - the good, the bad and the ugly.

Yes, there are officers out there who think they are "above the law" and call all non-army folks "bloody civilians". But aren't there a lot of other non-Army folks out there who are equally arrogant? Don't political party workers treat everyone like that all the time? What gives *them* the authority to do that? And I don't see the media making a big deal out of all these other things (unless of course, the competing party is paying them to do that... ).

There are weirdos in every sect, community, group. Let's not judge a whole community by some of its people who did not act according to expectations. And let's never forget that there is a free media in this country because the people whom it is pinning up as "Arrogant" and "Violent" are the ones who are protecting its rights to function.