Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Fwd: A Nation's Unpaid Debts to its Warriors

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Jay Bhattacharjee



My article was published yesterday.

Some friends may already have seen it on FB ; my apologies for sending it to them again.  

Best wishes, 

Jay Bhattacharjee

Vijay Diwas – A nation's unpaid debts to its fallen warriors, DEC 17, 2014

Vijay Diwas is the day when the 'Instrument of Surrender' was presented by Lt Gen AK Niazi, C-in-C of Pakistan Army in East Pakistan before Lt Gen JS Arora, GOC-in-C Eastern Command of the Indian Army at Dacca (now ,Dhaka) with a request to accept it. Gen JS Arora, accepted history's greatest military surrender post World War II on December 16, 1971.

As the three Services chiefs and the Defence Minister paid their homage early yesterday morning at Delhi's India Gate to the country's soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the 1971 war, every Indian would have been moved by the dignity and solemnity of the ceremony. The immaculately fine-tuned event was performed with the care, finesse, and precision that only our armed forces bring to each and every task that the nation gives them.

Even at this stage of my life, I get goose pimples when I see how our armed forces pay their respects to the nation and to their own fallen comrades. It is the same when I hear Vande Mataram andJana Gana Mana when they are rendered with the appropriate dedication on any occasion. This is not blind nationalism; it is the primordial sentiment that any human being feels for his near and dear ones. The concept of the "nation-state" has, of course, been derided in the last century and a half by many rootless cosmopolitans ; yes, mindless nationalism has been the cause of many conflicts and problems in recent times, but there is a higher and infinitely purer form of attachment to one's own civilisational and cultural roots. This is what I subscribe to.

This is what the 16th December events signify for people who share my ethos. Yet, there is also a deep sense of unease that the magnificent remembrance ceremonies for our fallen warriors are still being held at a structure that was erected by our former colonial masters, however impressive that building may be. For nearly 70 years after independence, we Indians have failed to construct a National War Memorial (NWM) where such events should be commemorated. Every now and then, I have heard the netas and the babus promising a NWM at the earliest, but such promises have been routinely forgotten as easily as they were trotted out.

Worse, the excuses that have been made for not building the NWM are so egregious and over-the-top that I have often wondered whether we deserve to have one of the finest military forces in the world. Easily one of the worst subterfuges attempted was by the former Delhi politico Sheila Dikshit, who pontificatedthat building the NWM near the India Gate would "affect the ambience of the area and restrict people's movement at the popular hangout zone". If this doesn't call for "righteous wrath", nothing will.

There are some signs of future solace on this front. According to credible but unconfirmed reports, the Union Government has agreed, in principle, to construct a National War Memorial at the Chhatri next to India Gate, as also a War Museum nearby. This is the culmination of years of dedicated effort by former soldiers and admirers of the armed forces. Yet, I will not be assured until there is a categorical official declaration on this subject. The desi babus and netas have, in the past, sabotaged countless decisions that were laudable and desirable, for me to be complacent about this one.

This brings me to the sad and deplorable topic of how the Indian political-bureaucratic establishment has treated our armed forces and our warriors for decades, even after they have saved our bacon on every occasion that we have sought their help. The sheer brazenness of the egregious conduct of the babu-neta combine will take your breath away. For the last five decades, the political-bureaucratic combine has done everything possible to undermine the status and morale of the armed forces. Yet, it is to the same armed forces that they have turned to, when the nation was in peril. Whether it is Kargil or the Uttarakhand floods, or the latest J & K natural calamity, the civilian apparatus has sought the succour of the men and women in olive-green, blue and white. But when it came to giving them their legal dues, this same bunch used every trick known to the human mind to deny, delay or sweep under the carpet what the nation owed our sword-arm.

With the arrival of the new dispensation in Raisina Hill, there were lots of expectations that the scenario would change. But it is unfortunate to see that the babus in the Ministry of Defence (MOD) have egged on the Union Government (read the Defence Minister, a.k.a. the Raksha Mantri and the Cabinet) to file a slew of cases to deny the veterans their legitimate and rightful dues. In the recorded annals of democratic and so-called civilised, law-abiding countries, there will not be any similar instances of infamy. Yet, our former soldiers took it on their chins and carried on their legal battles in the courts with dignity and fortitude.

However, what took the cake was the Union Government trying to argue a woefully perverse point before the Supreme Court on the 10th December, just seven days ago, to deny disability benefits to former warriors. It was truly an instance of disgrace abounding. The Supreme Court, thankfully, rejected the Government of India's petition. Indian citizens who read the whole history of this sordid episode will cringe in shame and boil in anger.

Our country is indeed fortunate that it has defenders of the calibre and integrity that we have. Here, I must repeat the words in the funeral oration of Pericles:

"The greatness of Athens has been acquired by men who knew their duty and had the courage to do it, who in the hour of conflict had the fear of dishonour always present in them, who, if ever they failed in an enterprise, would not allow these virtues to be lost to their country, but freely gave their lives to her as the fairest offering which they could present at her feet".

The veterans of an institution that achieved this remarkable feat deserve infinitely better than what the politicians and civil functionaries are doing to them. Our soldiers, air warriors and sailors embody the resurrection of the "khatriya spirit", as the great sage, Sri Aurobindo advocated. These are the indomitable individuals who have ventured forth to combat "fearful odds for the ashes of their fathers and the temples of their Gods" as Horatius conceptualised them ("The Captain of the Gate").

NaMo and Manohar Parrikar – if you don't give these people what is owed to them, Vijay Diwas will always be an irrelevant ritual.


Jay Bhattacharjee 
Advisor (Corporate Laws & Finance)
Tele : (91-11) 4182-8165 / 2651-0174
Mobile : (91) 98102-39986

sent from samsung galaxy note, so please excuse brevity

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