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Our Devalued Armed Forces – II

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By S PAUL

The Ilk of Military Veterans: It is a grave mistake of the rulers and the citizens of a nation to start considering their retired military personnel as a spent force and a burden on society. Consider the following observations made by some great intellectuals of the world:

“Never was so much owed by so many to so few,” Winston Churchill.

”The best of our nation is exemplified by our nation’s war veterans who embody what it means to put service above self; who have sacrificed their own personal interests out of a greater love for our people and our country,” Tulsi Gabbard, American Congress Woman. “Military veterans have unique skills, experience, and qualifications that are invaluable to today’s workforce, including teamwork and leadership skills, the proven ability to learn quickly, a strong work ethic, dedication, and the ability to work under pressure,” Tae Yoo, SVP of CISCO. “Veterans know better than anyone else the price of freedom, for they’ve suffered the scars of war. We can offer them no better tribute than to protect what they have won for us and provide them an honorable retir ement,” R onald Reagan.

We, in Bharat, rarely hear such comments ever made by any of our great political leaders and thinkers. On the contrary, some ill-disposed and illiterate politicians happen to remark that soldiers need not be eulogised; they join the ‘fauj’ voluntarily to be killed. Military veterans have no experience in dealing with the wily sans- scruples political leadership, to claim their honour and rights, which even after being promised to them in order to garner votes have not been granted. Such a betrayal is quite confusing to these soldiers who have been busy single-mindedly in defending the existence of their nation; spending months and years in wilderness isolated from the struggles that the common citizen of the country, who can successfully wage an agitation with ‘hartaal’, ‘rail roko’, ‘chakka jaam’, ‘jail bharo’, etc., to extract their dues from the apathetic law makers. The media too is very vociferous and enthusiastic in making a hue and cry about such violent demonstrations. The decent respectful soldiers are worth only an occasional word of praise or a column in a journal or a minute or two of coverage on a TV channel. The recent effort of the military veterans in asking the government to keep its promise and give them the true ‘One Rank One Pension’ and also consider their pay grade equal to the other government servants for NFFU, etc., by demonstrating in a quiet decent manner, was treated with humiliation by physical eviction from the legitimate venue for such demonstrations. The press was also gagged to not publish any appeal by these hapless veterans. Some TV channels who tried to show the shameless act of the government were threatened. Among the many aged and decorated war veterans a very senior officer of the rank of a major general, too, was manhandled by the civil police. What then is inferred from such utterly despicable attitude of the government who has even refused to obey the ruling in favour of the veterans by the highest judicial authority of the nation? The politicians are impervious to the decent protest and pleading by the veterans. The others in the government who have always held a grudge against the superior standing of military, have cleverly made sure that this is continuously and gradually eroded. And they have succeeded. It would take a well informed and strong nation loving political leadership to reverse this trend lest, in future, a morally depressed and degraded ‘fauj’ may not stand up to the evil designs of our enemies around. The history of slavery may be repeated. Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. The veterans too should now be prepared to give up their decency as gentlemen soldiers and resort to the means that is now considered constitutional democratic norms of making the power that be to relent and accede to ones demands. The mind set today among the veterans is not conducive to ‘wresting’ our legitimate rights by the ‘civilian means’. The present attitude is to ‘take it decently lying down’. Attend any get together of veterans, the first item of conversation, where one does not know everyone, would be ‘what course are you?’ The purpose is clearly to establish a ‘pecking order’ so that one knows who is senior and ought to be heard and not argued with. Try and appeal to their rigid attitude that we must become a political entity is vehemently disposed off saying that we will, as a principal, remain apolitical. With that mindset, the veterans would never be able to assert and get their dues and the successive governments would keep on degrading the lot of military veterans and the serving soldiers. That principal is only applicable to our serving tenure as required by our oath. Now as a retired ‘back to civilian life’ if we can stand for elections why not indulge in real politics? It appears that most of us do not have the guts to do this. A few who have and tried and indulged are considered unsoldierly outcastes. Ask in a gathering of military veterans how would they assess and appreciate the one rare general who joined an existing political party, won elections twice and now holds a portfolio in the present central government. Those senior to him in service (irrespective of ranks) would say they do not know him. Those who served with him would mostly hold grudges against him. Similarly their opinion about the Retired Colonel who successfully led a particular social class in Rajasthan to ask for reservations in Government service would be dissimilar and critical. They may also make faces at the mention of ex- NaikAnna Hazare, the well known social leader whose association led an intelligent civilian Income Tax officer to launch a fledgling political party which went on to defeat stalwarts like the Congress and BJP in Delhi. Our gentleman’s approach has not worked so do we give up and shamefacedly reconcile with our imposed degradation or do we have it in us, the soldiers who persist tenaciously and by changing tactics eventually achieve the AIM ? It would not be prudent to incite the serving soldier to stage a coup; as had been done repeatedly by our failed neighbouring nation. Such an act would not even leave us with a nation to serve and command. It is unthinkable. Therefore, let us think of the ways by which the power that is gets rattled and surrenders to the public demands. Let us start considering the process by which we attract the concern and attention of the government and the people of our nation. It may take time, a decade or more, but let us start at the grassroots. That grassroots lies in our soldiers’ background, that of the farmers in villages which is our fauj’s main harvesting field. Some of our officers and most of our junior level commanders who have not given up their ‘son of the soil’ privilege may be helped, encouraged and backed in every way to stand for elections at the level of Gram Panchayats to begin with under the banner of ‘Military Veterans’. The think tank to work out the type and methodology of that help and backing can be mostly from the highly educated and experienced officer lot (not necessarily from the general cadre). We may take guidance and help from those who have achieved certain political experience. We should think seriously of changing our identity from the ‘league’ to a registered ‘Union of Military Veterans’. Once we are able to conquer some localities we may expand our area of influence by declaring our union a political entity, so on and so forth. These thoughts that I am penning down may rattle some diehards among us. But I feel it is time that we have a relook on our self-devised ethos and become more open to integrating ourselves in our civilian society lest we become the breed like a Diaspora in our own land. In the end I would like to put up for our non-military readers two more quotes from prominent personalities who recognised the worth of soldiers serving and retired. ”People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf,” George Orwell. “The nation which forgets its defenders will be itself forgotten,” Calvin Coolidge. (Concluded)