Also, there was a certain Captain MN Mulla, who in the 1971 war went down with his ship in the best traditions of the Indian navy , and Flying Officer Nirmaljit Singh Sekhon single handedly took on Pakistani Sabres and prevented them from attacking Srinagar airfield.And certainly, no one can forget Captain Vikram Batra and his famous quip in 1999, “Yeh dil maange more,“ even as he began his climb to reclaim Point 5140 on the Kargil hills, never to return.
Were these Indians part of a mercenary entity , as Patel would like us to believe? While his aim appeared to be to get even with some political dispensations, it was patently impolite to use the Indian armed forces in his endeavour. Why? Because, the armed forces are apolitical and wince at being used for political ends; they cannot open up but that does not mean they have no feelings.
Feelings aside, what leaves one aghast is the undiluted venom. Patel asks why men and women who clean sewers do not get respect and compensation even when they die, while army men do? Good question, for everyone must get his due. But ever wondered why the cabinet secretary, who sits in an air conditioned office in South Block and hardly ever cleans his own toilet, forget a sewer, gets paid in lakhs? Or why the commander-in-chief stays in a 340 room mansion when people do not have a roof over their head?
Or why so many of us, including Patel, eat three square meals a day when many go hungry in India? Why , you may indeed ask? Because it is the jawan who doesn't flinch going to battle knowing he may not come back. And if the nation has not gone to war these past decades it is because of the deterrent posture of the armed forces unless, to justify why faujis get paid, we must go to war regularly! Yes, India sleeps because its armed forces stand guard. They deserve our salute, even as we acknowledge our sewer cleaners, our teachers, school bus drivers, shopkeepers, homemakers and so many others who together make our India.
Politicians et al who do “competitive bidding“ on dead soldiers as Patel puts it, must be despised. None of us, faujis in uniform and veterans, like to be used as footballs by public figures. Please fight your political battles elsewhere and leave the armed forces alone in their duty to safeguard the integrity of the nation.
To deter (and fight) the adversary the forces need tanks, ships and aircraft, unlike what Patel would have us believe.They don't come cheap but it is a price the country must be willing to pay to equip the war fighter do his duty . In return, all that men and women in uniform want is the unstinted support of their countrymen; and constructive criticism, not malice.
The writer is a retired Air Vice Marshal. Views are personal