Late one night, her husband came back from a secret assignment and knocked lightly on the bedroom window so as not to wake up the sleeping infant. He was wounded on his right arm and face.
He had taken a bad hit and could barely move or speak. For the next few weeks, he stayed home to recuperate — even though he was injured, she was just glad for their time together as she nursed him back to health. She talked about another incident when militants in the Valley attacked the home of another Army officer, who returned the fire but was grievously injured. As the militants closed in, two young daughters pleaded with their mother to kill them first, before the militants could get them.
Listening to her deeply stirring stories of valour and faith, I thought about our safe, protected city lives. This gutsy, proud woman’s narrative is just one of many. Today, she said emphatically, she has confidence in the new Prime Minister’s ability to motivate a tired and demoralized Army. For far too long, she insisted, our soldiers were made to heedlessly sacrifice their lives, because of political interference and an appalling level of corruption that had left the country vulnerable and weakened. She was glad Modi was taking a tough, aggressive stand.
She felt reassured and confident that a zero-tolerance position was being established against those using force against India. And then she told me something pretty chilling. “They were told to DUCK bullets and not fire back! Can you imagine any trained, self-respecting soldier ducking enemy bullets?” she said, her eyes were burning with outrage.
Was that the reason her own husband had finally quit the Army…in disgust? She denied it. But it left me wondering….
We treat our armed forces with scant respect. We have consistently ignored the demand for introducing the overdue OROP scheme (One Rank, One Pension). Fauji veterans have waited in vain for its implementation by the newly minted BJP-led government at the Centre, after previous administrations consistently ignored their appeals. It was a black Diwali for them this year. Hapless, frustrated veterans went so far as to return gallantry awards and medals to register their protest.Despite these setbacks, our men in uniform are stoically carrying on. Narendra Modi thanked our brave jawans on behalf of 125 crore Indian citizens, telling them we could sleep well at night only because it was they who were keeping us safe. It is true. It needed to be said.
Strange and sad nobody thought of saying it earlier.