by Aparna Choudhuri
We died, unsuccoured, helpless
We were your soldiers, men of bravery and pride
Yet we died like animals, trapped in a cage with no escape
Massacred at will, denied the dignity of battle
With the cold burning flame of anger and resolution
With the courage both of the living and the dead,
Our unplayed lives
Redeem the unredeemable sacrifice
In freedom and integrity
Let this be your inheritance
And our unwritten epitaph”
– Ms Harij Malik, ‘Nam ka Chu, October 1962’
These aren’t mere words, but something ineffable that hits you to the hilt, and there you are reading ‘1962 – The War that Wasn’t’ wondering whether to be angry or to be just embarrassed that as a nation time after time we have let down our soldiers. Shiv Kunal Verma’s book last winter taught me something probably all the soldiers and officers of the Indian Army couldn’t. Something the fraternity has known for generations and still knows. This had to be said in black and white. The question whether the British owe reparations to our country, seems to be miniscule, given the fact that they were actually “foreigners”. What am I supposed to say when my own countrymen have let down the forces due to a paranoia?
It baffles me that something that is so obvious to the youth, remains an unimportant matter to the Babus and the governments to this day. We get it. We are all patriots. We all love the whole notion of ‘Men in Uniform’. We look up to their ethos. Celebrating festivities with them is one of the activities that outline our gratitude towards them. Yet, and yet we have people taking decisions for combat when they haven’t even been to the terrain. If that was the case, then Akbar wouldn’t have military generals to help him win Panipat but rather would have asked his Khansama (chef) to decide on the tactics.
Yes, 20 years of existence has taught me how the government functions here, the red tapism and the power wielded by our bureaucrats. On the other hand it is not to be forgotten that the upbringing was done under the umbrella of an institution which equally gives me the right to ask; over seven decades of independence why aren’t Ex-Servicemen appointed in the ministry to handle key military issues? If they are afraid of a baseless, non-feasible military coup (thanks to our neighbors), the citizens should have done taken cue from the Arab Spring in view of the massive cases of corruption!
Well, here our elected representatives would say that each country’s geo-political situation is different. If that is the case, what stops our governments, year after year to take a stern stand for our soldiers which does not include making dummy ceasefire pacts? Lastly, we must realize as a nation, that our soldiers don’t sign up to get martyred and forgotten. Yes, martyrdom is the job hazard of this profession, but carrying on with our regular lives taking it to be news and merely laying wreath with “Ekkis tofo ki salami” is not enough.
Our governments must take a stand, answer these very basic questions, even if it needs reiteration, because dear readers, the bureaucrats do owe reparations to the countless brave souls, those who served and are serving the nation. Signing off the words of Kipling which very clearly shows the motto of our men and women in uniform.
To serve your turn long after they are gone, and so hold on when there is nothing in you except the will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’’
Aparna Choudhuri is a final year Electronics and Telecommunication student at the Army Institute of Technology, Pune. She is a keen debater, an avid quizzer and a budding writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org