The irony is striking – as the country was rejoicing over the #UriSurgicalStrikes (back in public memory due to the extremely well-made film of the same name), came another equally dastardly act of terrorism. A suicide bomber rammed an explosive laden SUV into a bus carrying CRPF personnel on the Srinagar Jammu highway on 14 th Feb 2019. Dar was supported by more terrorists who opened fire on other CRPF buses. As of last count, martyrdom of at least 42 security personnel was confirmed.
The country has reacted predictably – the Government has warned of ‘stern action’ and it is to the credit of this Government that it had the courage and conviction to take ‘stern action’ after Uri attack. So, one is hopeful that at least this Government will not stop at mere words…. unlike the earlier ones. One shudders to think of how many more such incidents would have happened and Indian lives lost, had the Government not shown its willingness to take punitive action (which hopefully acted as a deterrent for a while).
The media is eulogizing the sacrifice and the martyrdom of the security personnel. Heart wrenching stories of the soldiers are being covered and they make for a very emotional read. Exactly 2 weeks earlier, Squadron Leader Samir Abrol and Squadron Leader Sidharth Negi achieved martyrdom while test flying Mirage 2000 at HAL airport, Bengaluru. This too was dutifully covered by the media. Prior to this, an Army major and a soldier were killed in an attack on the LOC on Jan 11 and the media covered this also.
However, let us remember that this is the same media that had also reported that “7 civilians, 3 militants, 1 jawan killed in Pulwama gunfight” – without realizing that while militants get killed, jawans get martyred! There is a difference between the two, but our popular English media possibly does not understand the same. The role of the media is to be objective, but when that objectivity reaches a stage that it is unable to distinguish between the life of a terrorist and a soldier, then it needs to be questioned.
Media frames and influences popular perception and when this responsibility is not handled with maturity, it harms the nation. A case in point has been the biased coverage of the much discussed Rafale deal. It is a known fact that our Armed Forces are using outdated equipment and there is an urgent need for modernization. Instead of appreciating the Government for taking bold steps towards the same, the media has played directly into the hands of anti-national elements by either not bothering to understand the nuances of the deal or willfully choosing to misrepresent facts. A recent article by Maj. Gen. Mrinal Suman (India’s leading expert on Defence Procurements) explains the same in detail. Quoting the article, “Headlines of a newspaper dated 11 Feb 2019 screamed that…provisions of the Defence Procurement Procedure 2013 were violated by not adhering to the mandatory Standard Contract Document, given at Chapter V of the procedure…The paper has most dishonestly omitted to inform the readers that the Standard Contract Document is not applicable to IGA (Inter Government Agreements)”.
If the Rafale deal (or any modernization attempt) gets cancelled/deferred due to selfish opposition interests and self-righteous media, and more pilots lose their lives flying obsolete machines – who will be held responsible?
Squadron Leader Abrol and Squadron Leader Negi may not have lost their lives if they were not flying these outdated machines. There have been numerous cases of test pilots dying because of old aircrafts. As a Facebook Post shared by Squadron Leader Abrol’s family asks, “How many more of these pilots have to give up their life to shake you up and make you realise there is something really wrong in the system?”
Most of us Indians are also feeling the pain of the families that have lost their loved ones in Pulwama attack. Social media profile pictures are being changed to reflect the somber mood of the nation. Messages of revenge and rage are doing the rounds. People are angry and rightfully so. It is heartening to see that at least we have not become so callous that these untimely deaths have stopped evoking a primal response.
But a primal response is just that – a primal response…a temporary reaction. Today, we all are upset and baying for blood. But a fortnight later – our minds will be occupied with 31 st March deadlines, school exams, upcoming vacation plans and the ilk – our lives will go on. It is the bereaved families who have had a full stop in their lives.
Wars and battles are not won just based on a primal response. Even the best of generals needs men who are trained, men who are well fed and well equipped. An early 20 th century saying “An army marches on its stomach” clearly illustrates the same. A country like India is complex and diverse. Its military and para military forces fight multiple threats along the borders/ LOC and within disturbed areas. They do so with equipment way past its shelf life –this often leads to loss of life and limb. Yet, we question why the Defence Expenditure has been increased? We theorize that as a peace-loving nation, we should reduce the size of our security forces, we should spend the money saved for development activities. We forget that development happens only when there is peace. Ensuring peace is never a one-sided job…if we have hawks outside and within, we must be prepared.
The ‘peace lovers’ who criticized the Army Chief for taking a tough stance against stone-pelters are quiet today. As per reports, the Pulwama suicide bomber was trained initially as a stone pelter. Had he been caught and put behind bars then, had our intelligentsia’ not supported stone pelters as misguided youths, had they supported the military and para military forces in doing a thankless, risky job…maybe today the 42 CRPF men would have been alive. Their kids would have grown up with fathers.
Systemic change (and not knee-jerk reactions) is the need of the hour. But systemic change is difficult and does not win elections. It is far easier for Rahul Gandhi to blame Modi, obfuscate Rafale and derail the much needed Defence modernization than for him and the rest to put aside partisan politics and look at the larger picture in national interest. We have and will keep losing young lives due to the selfish and greedy nature of our politicians – simply because ‘defeating Modi in Elections 2019’ is a far bigger and unifying agenda for them than ‘ensuring safety of our nation and its warriors’.
Blaming Jaish-e-Mohammed, ISI and Pakistan for Pulwama is taking the easy way out. Blaming them helps us deal with our own guilt. But we are as culpable, if not more, as the external enemy. Today we are eulogizing our dead, but tomorrow they will be forgotten. Till the time, we – as a one nation, one people- redress the flaws inherent in the system, we will continue to see such incidents. Till the time, we do not put aside our narrow views and embrace a larger collective view in the national interest, our soldiers are doomed to die.
Uri happened, Pulwama happened…. more such incidents will continue to happen. It is a matter of shame for all of us that a nation of 1.2 billion lets its young, its brave and its best die.
Here Dead We Lie (A E Housman)
Here dead we lie
Because we did not choose
To live and shame the land
From which we have sprung.
Life, to be sure,
Is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is,
And we were young.
Aditi Kumaria Hingu is a marketing graduate from IIM Calcutta. Currently she works in the corporate sector. She comes from an army background.
Note: The views expressed in the article are of the author's and not of Sify.com.
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