Of the many things that the civilian society takes for granted - Freedom and peace perhaps feature high on the list. We don’t seem to have the time or inclination to spare a thought for the men and women who ensure we enjoy the freedom and peace. That we as a nation don’t seem not to care about the difficulties our soldiers face, was featured recently in a national magazine.
Apart from ensuring security, our armed forces and the men that have led them over the decades have also been responsible for the strengthening of our democracy – maintaining a professional distance away from Politics, while the armies of many newly independent nations of that time fell to the tempatation of Politics and Power as in our own neighbourhood.
Most importantly, the Armed forces have repeatedly and unfailing stepped in whenever there were Political failures, despite the costs to the lives and limbs of many young men and suffering to many people across the country.
63 years on post Independence, as a nation we are facing unprecedented challenges of security – being a nation in a region racked by terrorism, civil unrest in J&K, compounded by the threats of naxalism growing on the back of decades of exploitation by the political class (and their crony businessmen friends) of tribals and other marginalized communities. The first and indeed the only line of defence between chaos/anarchy/lawlessness and a semblance of order is the uniformed man – be it in the Para Military or Armed forces.
Try and think of the implications if this line of defence is breached or gives up. Its precisely for this reason, that’s important for us to reflect upon the way we treat our soldiers ; and learn to understand, appreciate and empathise with sacrifices of the soldiers and their families. For starters, citizens must remember that they able to work, party and go back home to sleep in peace because the men in uniform stay awake and ensure their safety. That we have the responsibility to show our gratitude to the brave men and women who are sacrificing their today for our tomorrow.
In turn, these uniformed men and their families would come to realize that the nation and indeed most of its people support their sense of duty and service to the country. Why should any man or woman in uniform want to lay his life and career on the line, if its not seen or appreciated by the people and the nation they do it for.
Sadly, the truth is reverse. The civil society elite seems to be uncaring and unconcerned about our soldiers ! For example, independent India’s first Military Memorial Park that is coming up in Bangalore met with opposition from a small group of ultra elite of the city who felt their morning walks will be affected because of the Memorial Park and suggested the Memorial be pushed to outskirts of the city. Another esteemed citizen questioned the need for a war memorial questioning why honour the soldiers who are just doing their duty and who are paid to die ! Shocking insights into the way some parts of ‘modern India’ are thinking! The widow of a Indo-Pak war hero is made to survive on a Pension of Rs 80/month; The political leaders seek to scapegoat the Army in J&K to cover up their own political failures! Unseemly sight of proud veterans of our forces asking for honor through One Rank,One pension and surreal sight of them returning their medals to the Govt!!
Nothing can be more demoralising for the soldiers, who fighting night and day to keep the citizens safe, to know that the nation or Government is not backing them and people have no sense of appreciation to their efforts.
In the United States, soldiers and ex-servicemen are treated as heroes and people go out their way to demonstrate their respect, love for the men and women in uniform. There is always something sacred about the way people in US or many other nations treat their soldiers.
As John F Kennedy said “A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers”. Character of a society is reflected in the manner it demonstrates gratitude and support to the brave men and women who protect the nation ensure people are free to pursue their dreams. And as our own Kautilya , the great political strategist, wrote to Chandragupta Maurya centuries ago: “The day the soldier has to demand his dues will be a sad day for Magadha. For then on that day, you will have lost all moral sanction to be king”.
To this I add, “If you cant stand behind our Armed forces, feel free to stand in front of them!”