The Sanskrit expression ‘neti, neti’ is an ancient philosophical method from the Upanishads to help the seeker gain wisdom. Literally, it means not this, not this. A precursor to the apophatic or negative theology of the West, this Hindu or Buddhist catchphrase allows the quester to reject what is wrong to arrive at what is right.
Since we, as a nation, take immense pride in our Upanishadic traditions, why don’t we ask questions? Why don’t we say neti, neti, and keep pushing the frontiers of wisdom? Why don’t we reject the form and embrace the essence? But then, we are being told not to ask questions at all, particularly about the army.
What is special about our army? Most of our soldiers are sons of farmers, so are we all—children of farmers, once, twice or several generations removed from the farms of our ancestors. As teachers, politicians, bureaucrats, entrepreneurs, judges, lawyers, cops and journalists, we regularly fail. So, it is silly to assume that we won’t fail when we become soldiers. As a society, we have let ourselves down many times.
Every time a bridge collapses, a train derails, a plane crashes, a riot breaks out, an Akhlaq is lynched, and a fire accident kills helpless patients in an intensive care unit, we fail as a society. But we learn from our failures because we ask questions, we try to make people accountable, punish the negligent and hope that we don’t repeat the mistakes.
If we hadn’t asked questions of the army, there would never have been an expose of the jeep scandal, Bofors or the coffin scam. Our army is as efficient or as clean as the rest of the society. There are ketchup colonels, daal generals and other scamsters waiting to be outed in every section of our society. To put it rather...