January 15 2017, a normal Sunday for most of us Indians, we look in the newspapers, look up the web the world is going the way it is. Is there anything special about that day? To most of us maybe not but January 15 is Army Day. January 15 is the day. It is the day Lieutenant General K. M. Cariappa took over as the first Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army from General Sir Francis Butcher, the last British Commander-in-Chief of India on 15 January 1949. It was a major day in our history yet finds no mention in our history textbooks like the thousands of soldiers who have lost their lives yet are not important enough to mark the pages of those books.
The last year has been very interesting with regards to the Indian Army. They found so much mention in the media which I don’t think they did ever before maybe except Kargil War because what better way to make money than selling the patriotism and death of a soldier? The Army should be indebted to the media because they showered our soldiers with such spotlight which they mostly don’t waste on them.
Talking about our soldiers, we love them, don’t we? We know how they work and what they go through so it is our right to convict them or exonerate them. We love them so much that when they die we see red. We want blood for blood, we want war. We prize them so much, yet according to our defence minister Manohar Parrikar, the Indian Army faces a shortage of nearly 10,000 officers. The naked truth is, sorry soldiers, but we don’t really care.
Time and again, we have proven the fact that we don’t really care for our soldiers. We castigate them at the drop of a doubt. We readily stand up for people of ‘questionable’ character but we hesitate when it comes to our soldiers. Their words are dictated by politicians who use them for their popularity and vote bank, be it BJP taking the credit for surgical strikes or Mamta Banerjee calling a normal and regular Army exercise a ‘military coup’. What do we care about a man who stays away from his family all year long in a place where he can actually die any moment for a salary that will put all of us to shame? We don’t.
Two years ago when I was in Kashmir, I got to know that a convoy carrying soldiers home had been attacked and unfortunately some of them died in the attack. This news never made it to any newspaper. There are many such incidents that never see the light of the day. There was a time that at least one soldier died each week but it was not important enough for anyone to share.
We don’t know what they go through, we are not in their boots. We blame them for the death of civilians but never ask whose bullet was it that pierced the victim’s heart, could it have been the terrorist’s? We never ask how many times they have faced a situation where a person under the pretence of hiding took a family hostage indirectly. They move forward, they are guilty, they retreat, more people die. They live in a place where they see the death of their brothers, can you even imagine what effect this has on their psyche? We can’t. No one is above law, not even them, so if someone is guilty, punishment should be meted out but they don’t deserve the double standards that we always follow in their case. Most important of all, we forget that these men and women follow orders from someone way up in the chain who lives in a lavish bungalow and faces no real consequences of those orders.
Death is a soldier’s friend. We mourned them in Uri and Pathankot but where were we when was the mourning before that? Is it just limited to when we can put a hashtag before it? India came together to support people of Kashmir and it made me feel so proud but why hasn’t this India come out to support justice for Capt. Saurabh Kalia. His parents have been fighting for years, alone, in hope of justice. Why are there no candle marches on the anniversary of Kaluchak attack? Why don’t we remember Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan on the anniversary of 26/11? When we can debate over Burhan Wani then why do we forget Col. M.N. Rai?
These men and women put their lives in jeopardy for a nation that mostly doesn’t care. Their families are not safe. A new low was when their children were targeted with hate during the 2016 Kashmir crisis by many people. When they die what do they get? Nothing. How many of us come forward to support their families after they have passed away? After a day of media hype, they are forgotten only to be remembered with a wreath twice a year for upholding political image and in name of tradition. We don’t respect them. Not really, not from the heart.