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Given the ever-looming security threats around us, the nation must be invested in an armed force that is at a high motivational level.
17 years ago, today - Kargil Vijay Diwas - our armed forces won us a gritty yet decisive war against Pakistan in 1999. Images of our brave and young soldiers fighting it out in the inhospitable terrain of Kargil flashing on our televisions cannot be forgotten. This day marked the successful completion of “Operation Vijay” – that marked yet another bloody nose for a Pakistan establishment that to this day seems not to either learn from history or from its long record of failures.
Kargil Vijay Diwas represents many things to many people – but to most Indians it represents what we see day in and day out - the selfless and professional approach to service of the Nation that our Armed forces and their families represent.
While we pay our tributes to those who fought and laid down their lives, it is a good time to ponder upon where these very brave men in uniform serving our country stand in the scheme of things. Especially since Pakistan is again engaged in stoking up trouble in J&K and the Armed forces are having to deal with it again. Given the various struggles they face - they are, today indeed the first and last bastion for all problems including terror, infiltration, natural calamities and also civil unrest. In the recent past, the Armed Forces have been called to the aid civil administration in all sorts of situations - be it Operation Rahat in June 2013, the biggest civilian rescue operation carried out by any air force using helicopters in the world in Uttarakhand during the landslides, the floods in Chennai, Jammu & Kashmir and Assam where they put their lives on line and saved lakhs of people and the more recent Jat agitation in Haryana where the civil administration failed completely.
Get Army out of Internal Security
While on the one hand we are quick to applaud their efforts and aid, on the other, we waste no time to admonish them and positioning them as a force with little or no regard for Human Rights. It has almost become a routine that Civil Administration ropes in Army’s help whenever situation seems to challenging to them. Just as in the case of the Jat Reservation agitation, the Prakash Singh Committee Report on the Role of Officers of Civil Administration and Police makes this scathing observation - “The existing provisions regarding Army being called to assist the civil administration would probably need to be redefined. The district officers and those sitting at the State Capital are finding it very convenient to abdicate their functions and call the Army. The civil administration and the state police should normally be able to face challenges to the law and order situation and the Army should be called only as a last resort.”
Then there is the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). Vilifying the Army may seem to be the norm, but its easily forgotten that this provision is not the doing of the Armed Forces. In the recent Supreme Court order on the fake encounters in Manipur, observed that the Armed Forces are not performing a pleasant task and it is not that they chose the same. Such situations are meant to be handled by the civil administration. There is definitely a need to create accountability in civil administration and police and get the Armed Forces out of the management of internal security in these disturbed areas.
The Supreme Court order made headlines with just a selective extract, but not much was written of the fact that the Apex Court questioned the deployment of the Army for a prolonged period. Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Uday U Lalit observed. “Involvement of armed forces in handling such a situation brings them in confrontation with their countrymen. Prolonged or too frequent deployment of armed forces for handling such situations is likely to generate a feeling of alienation among the people against the armed forces who by their sacrifices in the defence of their country have earned a place in the hearts of the people. It also has an adverse effect on the morale and discipline of the personnel of the armed forces.”
Support our Armed Forces
In our haste we forget the many who sacrifice their lives and limb defending the borders of the country. Their service and sacrifice is amidst seriously adverse conditions and asymmetry in terms of terms of engagement, equipment and other hardships. The Armed forces requests during the 7th CPC also was insensitively handled with no clarity on why most of the proposals in the Joint Services Memorandum from the three Chiefs were rejected. Given our ever looming security threats around us, the nation must be invested in an armed force that are at a high motivational level, rather than the other way around. The Armed Forces rely on and need our motivation and support and they must be given their due.
The need also is not just to observe anniversaries and honour the tremendous sacrifices made by our soldiers within cantonments and regimental war memorials, but rather to imbibe a spirit of remembrance in our collective National conscience. A dedicated National Day of Remembrance to not only remember and honour our Indian soldiers who have laid down their lives fighting, but also those who continue to serve the Nation selflessly today.
So on this Kargil Vijay Diwas, let us remember the thousands of families that have lost their loved ones – father, sons, husbands and brothers - because of their belief in service to our country and their commitment to protect us. Think of them, and give this day and them and their families the honour they deserve.
This article appeared in DailyO on July 26, 2016