Come 15 August 2004 early morning, and an old song sung by melody queen after 1962 war,
ae mere watan ke logo zaraa aankh meN bhar lo paani,
jo shaheed hue haiN unkii zaraa yaad karo quarbani
is bound to be played in some parts of India where some ministers, some of our political leaders (I call them Bharat Bhagya Vidhata) will hoist our national flag, make long speeches about their concern for the well-being of the young generation, of our poor people, national security, while some, by mistake, will praise our Police, Para Military Forces and Armed Forces too.
This song, when it was sung first time in presence of our Prime Minister Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, made tears well up in his eyes, since it touched the emotional chords of a concerned human being. And into the state archives this song would be sent back once again, only to be pulled back again on 26 January, 2005 in some state capital or the other.
Standing on the road crossing, managing and regulating the umnanagable road traffic of IPs (Indian People), VIPs and VVIPs going to attend flag hoisting functions or organising the inner and outer cordon for the security of VVIPs or waiting to be killed in a mine explosion in a Naxalite infested area while going for my duty or targeted by terrorists while guarding ministers' residence and other places in Kashmir or flying a helicopter for air surveillance in the national capital or standing in my trench in the snow covered area on the line of control at the height of 14,000 ft, keeping a watch on the enemy, I may listen to this song and feel satisfied, at least for a moment, that there are some people in my country who remember me, even if it be just for five minutes. It will give me the strength and encouragement to continue to perform my duty for my nation.
As a airman or a sailor, I will be given a briefing and instructions early morning for my mission of the day. I will be reminded and cautioned to be extra careful and vigilant on 15 August, because of the threats from terrorists. Waiting for my turn for duty in the crew room/cabin I may come across snatches of some telecast of speeches to the effect that my government will provide the most modern technology, equipment and weapons to the armed forces and police to combat external and internal threats.
I would feel happy for a moment. After my duty, I would return my bunker, barrack, quarter, officer’s mess or my home, I might switch on the radio or TV hoping to here some good news. But what would I watch or hear?
(a) That there are over 100 persons (as reported earlier by a leading and highly respected weekly published from Delhi) with criminal record of all sorts and charges against them who have successfully become our members of Parliamnet (I call them Bharat Bhagya Vidhata). Some of them have occupied (by manipulation and threats) even more elevated chairs and platforms.
(b) That a chief minister of a state in northern India is threatening about the possibility of "return of terrorism" in his state and elsewhere if the Supreme Court of my nation does not give the verdict on "water issue" in favour of his state. (Those who where in Indian Military Academy under training still remember his aristocracy, elegance and dictatorial way of life).
Since I am a serious student of counter-terrorism, counter-insurgency and psychological warfare, I am suddenly reminded of the elementary lesson on the growth and spread of terrorism -- that first it is part of a thought process -- individual thinking, desire -- expressed publicly through chosen words, put across in a very articulate manner and only later does the thought process get manifested through various acts of terrorist violence on the ground. How do I forget that this very state had faced the worst terrorist violence for over a decade due to such local issues such as river water and dirty narrow-minded politics of a few, which resulted in the loss of lives of thousands of innocent children, and people not only in this state but also other parts of India?
I still remember the deaths and injury of hundred of persons serving in state police, para military forces and army. I remember our Prime Minister being assassinated at her official residence due to revengeful attitude of just a few people who were thoroughly indoctrinated by justification of terrorism. I remember how a chief of Indian army was killed in his own home town after his retirement. It was suspected that the terrorist who assassinated the ex chief, came from the that land of honey and milk where terrorism is threatened to be revived on the issue of "sharing of water".
Thanks to the excellent people of this great state of our nation, terrorism was brought under control. I do hope the young generation and the right-thinking people of this great state will not permit revival of terrorism to serve the narrow, personal, momentary political interests of just one person who may be supported by few like minded ministers and other politicians across party lines.
(c) That one of the chief ministers of our Northeastern states (most probably under the directions of the insurgents and terrorist organisations), duly supported by his "able" ministers, has openly declared and assured the people of the state that the "Armed Forces Special Power Act" will be withdrawn by 15 Aug 2004, or else....
I am forced to recall the deaths of thousands of police personnel and other security forces combating decades long insurgency, propped up due to local, narrow political interests, which continues even today due to the same interests. I am forced to recall the loss of thousands of innocent lives of this very state.
(d) That another chief minister of another state in the Northeast, has dissolved the state assembly, hoping o be elected again shortly. There is nothing wrong in the "politics of personal gains" but I am forced to wonder whether this move is not under the guidance, instructions, financial help -- duly supported by "armed power" -- of an insurgent organisation which is controlling the eastern part of the state, to ensure return of the same chief minister with more supporters in power so that the insurgents can continue to call the shots and continue to collect 35% of funds allocated by central government?
(e) That another chief minister of a state in south India has lifted the ban on Peoples War (PW). He wants to purchase peace with naxalites because of their support during elections. I am overjoyed, because I know that "only peace can bring further prosperity and peace". But I also hear the sad news that at a public rally, leaders of PW in presence of some state ministers and Police have issued a serious, strong, meaningful and clear warning stating that their "hit list stays" and that the "PW won’t give up armed struggle".
No farewell to arms while they talk of pace with the state government. That they "will not spare the former chief minister", whom they had almost succeeded in killing just few months ago. One of the PW leader openly and clearly warned that "there is no way the PW will let go of Naidu (Ex CM) and SP Police of Warangal District".
The loss of lives and limbs of my colleagues in uniform and their disembodied bodies flash before my eyes.
(f) That a minister in the central government is advocating acceptance of a particular gun for the Indian Army. I ask my self and my friends as to what are the qualifications required to recommend induction of weapon systems or equipment for the army, air force or navy. I am told you should be a service officers’ son/daughter and a minister of the ministry which has no concern what so ever with ministry of Defence or armed forces. In fact, the areas of interest of this particular minister are "farthest from the nearest sea", but these are the areas where the artillery gun in question may have to be deployed against our adversaries. But then how can any one question the competence of this minister in recommending induction of a particular gun?
(g) That a cabinet minister of the government of my India went missing, could not be traced for well over week, because a court had issued a warrant against him. Even the PMO could not trace or contact him. He was advised to tender his resignation probably through the good office of the dictator of our neighbouring country and the head of the state which claims to be most powerful in the world, because they were the only one who knew the whereabouts of this minister. He surfaced at the place and time of his choosing duly supported by his supporters and guarded by the same police which was tasked to arrest him. I asked a question to myself and my friends: what would have happened if the same minister was kidnapped by suspected terrorists, insurgents, naxalites or professional kidnappers? How the government, media and our strategic, political and security experts would have reacted? How would they have showered their praise and appreciation for the efficiency, capabilities of our intelligence agencies and police?
(h) That a sitting MP from another neighbouring state, absconding to evade arrest by the Police, had the courage to warn our PM that he would not surrender unless he was first appointed as a cabinet minister! Once he becomes a minister, not only myself but even my superior officers would be required to salute him, guard him and perhaps even give him a "Guard of Honour" when he visits the state and stays at the state guest house.
(j) That a great leader from the heart-land of my India, who has been accused (criminal cases pending against him) of murder, rape, possessing unauthorised weapons which are the preserve of only terrorist and insurgents, who was in jail but has not only been released but made a honourable minister. As a police personnel, I am fully aware as to what my plight would be now, because I had escorted him to jail. Now I will be required to salute him when he attends the function on 15 August.
(k) I hear the news and watch on a TV channel as to how the girls are auctioned and sold at Mumbai like goats and sheep. Standing in my trench, guarding the line of control at the height of 14,000 ft, I am forced to think what will happen to the security, safety of my sister -- wife, daughter, mother -- who is thousands of miles away at my home in my village? Which gun, which missile, should I fire to protect millions of daughters and sisters who are constantly under threat in my India?
The news is pouring in. There seems to be no end. I am feeling sick and frustrated. I am forced to think: are these the people I am required to protect and die for? While every one "barks" about national security, who is bothered about "human security"? Where is the question of security of crores of people who still respect "Mother India" (matru bhumi) and 'India, that is Bharat'? I am forced to wonder if it is worth shedding my blood for the security of corrupt, subverted, characterless people who are "sold and bought" in state assemblies and even in Parliament?
But then I suddenly realise these are not the people -- they are the goons, dons, mafia, just a few thousand -- the real India comprises of over one hundred crore people, who have faith, trust, confidence and hope in the "armed forces". I should -- shall -- never let them down. I am one of them, I am part of them. Let me shed my blood for the sake of those crores of people.
I am reminded of the teachings of the Mahabharata, and Chankya and that weak, corrupt, incompetent, unacceptable leadership, irresponsive governing mechanism, a powerless judiciary, vague, confused and outdated policies of national governance are in itself threat to national and human security. There are many examples in the world and in India’s neighbourhood.
I am reminded once again that I am required to be alert, dutiful, efficient, upright, honest and loyal to my nation, my people; because I and the armed forces of which I am part of are considered to be the only "small little island of hope" in this vast sea of miseries and corrupted, subverted polluted mechanism of governance. I am needed. I shall not let down my nation, my people. Before going to sleep, I pray to good to give me encouragement, strength and the capability to come up to the expectations of the hopeful people of my India.
I am reminded of the writing at the war cemetery at Kohima (Nagaland).
When you go home,
Tell them of us, that for your tomorrow,
We gave our today.
Let me give my life, if required, let me give my today for the tomorrow of my nation, my people, our young generation, because every year on 15 August, in front of Red Fort at Delhi, on 26 January at Raj Path and at Vijay Chowk after beating the retreat function, the Armed Forces bands always play the tune "saare jahan se acchha Hindustan hamaaraa". And only we can make it real.
On 15 August 2004, this song will be sung by children at some schools, though they may not really understand the real meaning of : Hindi haiN ham, watan hai Hindustan hamaaraa.
Lt Gen D.B. Shekatkar, former additional director-general, military operations, and additional director-general, perspective planning (covering among other things nuclear doctrine and planning), retired from the army on March 31, 2002. In addition to the two postings, he has also been a divisional commander in Kashmir, a corps commander in the northeast and commandant of the prestigious Infantry School.
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