Tuesday, November 8, 2016
Nothing can be said about our faujis, they're above criticism - By AAKAR PATEL
Every day, on my way to work, I go past the headquarters of the Madras Sappers in Bengaluru. A tank in desert camouflage is at the gate, its cannon overlooking the pretty Ulsoor Lake. I'd like to row on it but civilians are forbidden. On the lake are little rock islands on the walls of which are painted the names of great Sappers victories, like Assaye Ganj.
Who was defeated at Assaye? The Marathas. Who were the Sappers fighting for? Arthur Wellesley, later to become Duke Wellington (of Waterloo fame).The Sappers HQ gate proudly announces the year the unit was formed: 1780, more than a century and a half before Independence. Who did the Sappers shoot and bayonet and mine and blow up all these years? Other Indians.
Colonel Dyer only gave the order in 1919 at Jallianwala Bagh. Aim was taken and triggers pulled by the Gurkha Rifles, and by the Punjabis of Baloch Regiment (the Baloch did not and do not have a tradition of soldiery).
I am revealing no secret when I say that what had been a mercenary army on August 14, 1947 renamed itself a nationalist army the next morning. We have no history before that of a nationalist army, unlike, say, Turkey.
The mercenary tradition of the Indian armed forces goes back at least 2,500 years. The first Greek historian Herodotus describes Indians at the battle of Plataea in 479 BC hired by the Persian emperor Xerxes (the Indians acquitted themselves well, though the battle was lost to the Greek alliance).
Ghalib, who died in 1869, said famously: “Sau pusht se, hai pesha-e-aba sipahgari“ (for a hundred generations, our family profession has been soldiery).The world has long respected the Indian soldier's abilities. It is he who taught the European trench fighting in what they call their Great War.
Alexander the Great's fawning biographers, Arrian, Quintus Curtius Rufus and Plutarch, say only one action stained the conqueror's record. He concluded a treaty with a group of Indian mercenaries and then treacherously had them murdered after they disarmed. He did so because he respected and was threatened by their fighting ability.
But why in India has this respect changed to reverence? I am saying this in response to the cult of Army worship that we have built so successfully.Nothing can be said about our faujis because they are above criticism.
The Union government is under fire because it seems to have done away with some minor rule which equates an Army officer with a bureaucrat of similar rank. But why must soldiers insist on this parity?
Who opposes one rank, one pension? Nobody really. Already more than 40% of all central pensions money goes to soldiers and it is easy to see why the Modi government is slow on increasing this further.
Why should retired soldiers insist on getting what retired teachers and clerks and postmen do not? Why is their contribution better or more meaningful? I accept that many of them are brave individuals who do dangerous work. But so are the women and men who clean our sewers. They die at a higher rate than soldiers but get neither respect nor compensation.
Observe the competitive bidding over the dead bodies of soldiers. The Aam Aadmi Party announced Rs 1 crore to the family of the man who committed suicide over OROP. There is no such bidding over the bodies of sewer workers. Why? Because the politicians are responding to a nation in which all of us must pay constant and unconditional obeisance to its army . This country sleeps because its soldiers are awake, in the words of the Prime Minister. Such sentiment is accepted unquestioningly . It is because of this sentiment that a nation that spends Rs 33,000 crore on the health of its citizens paid Rs 59,000 crore for 36 warplanes this year. There was some criticism of this government because it actually cut the health budget. But has anyone spoken against the purchase of warplanes by a nation that, by any honest measure, has a population half of which is poor and illiterate? We cannot, because this purchase is an act of nationalism.
When was the last time we actually used fighters in combat? More than 40 years ago and that also in an offensive war that we launched. And more warplanes are being purchased, hundreds more. Who are we going to war against? It doesn't matter. The Army must be fed first because otherwise none of us will be able to sleep.
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(Source- TOI, Hyd ed of 06.11.16)