Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The Night of the Generals..

Huyi shyam, unka khayaal aa gaya…

True, having reached the evening of ones’ life (closer to the end than the beginning, as Alec Guiness says in `Bridge on the River Kwai’), one frequently looks back, and mellow thoughts of people, places, institutions and events cast a warm glow at the sunset hour.  As Richard Church says..

Joy is sad in retrospect
Just as a time of strife
Calms in recollection..

If there’s one institution that one remembers most fondly, one that has shaped us for who we are, one that defines us in every sense of the word, that institution is, without a doubt, the Indian Army! What it has given us in terms of our work ethos, our pride in walking tall and our sense of camaraderie is beyond compare, and beyond words. The friendships one has made, the bonhomie shall most certainly outlive all of us – and that, to me, is its greatest gift to us.

So it is with considerable anguish that one reads that the insidious web of corruption that assails civil society has begun to creep into this wonderful institution as well. Stories of `Ketchup Colonels’ and `Rum Brigadiers’ and `Adarsh scams’  fill one with deep foreboding. We pray that these are one-off aberrations, and that the motto inscribed in Chetwode Hall will ultimately prevail.

Civil society, that amorphous entity, is today up in arms. Middle class anger, fuelled by a high decibel media, is the rage. One thought the Army would exert a sobering influence over the national debate. But lo and behold, it is our misguided ex-servicemen that are shouting the loudest. Rather than soothing the cacophony, they are actively conducting it with tremendous relish!

Switch on any news channel, and one sees the same faces  (why the same faces ad nauseam? Daal mein kuch kaala hai??), handle bar moustaches bristling, raving and ranting at anchors who are the pits anyway (a Pakistani journo has tweeted that, if he shouted just a wee bit louder, Arnab Goswami could be heard in Pakistan even without them switching on their TV sets!) – one urging the Govt to unleash the Army, another screaming that we shut off the Indus waters. Such top brass, and such utter nonsense – who made these guys what they are? Check out Asma Jehangir calling Pak generals `siyasi duffers’ – she could well have been talking about the lot on this side!

Samina admits that their duffers are probably bigger than ours, but I differ - the only difference, I tell her, is that ours, thankfully, had never taken over the country!

The latest bit of news that caused me great pain was the hunger strike by the family of L/Nk Hemraj. I wrote on Facebook -

As soldiers, the qualities of courage and fortitude get inbuilt in us, and get passed on to our families as well. The behaviour of L/Nk Hemraj's family after his death, howsoever gruesome, has sadly been far from soldierly. The ill advised hunger strike, the calling it off after they were promised Rs 25 lacs by the UP CM has caused even greater anguish than the tragedy of his martyrdom..

Sadly, this resulted in a wave of backlash from my Army colleagues. I was accused of being insensitive to the plight of the lady, and my remarks on the largesse she received to break her fast were labelled as `uncharitable’.  They sought to paint this incident as yet another voice raised against an insensitive Govt/System. But what was the lady protesting against? Non receipt of dues? That the Army not sensitive enough?

There were no answers to my queries, viz:-
  • Does the widow of L/Nk Sudhakar also go on a hunger strike till she too gets 25 lacs?
  • Do ALL war widows hereafter follow the same process? How is their case any different??
  • Does this not show the glorious institution we all served in a poor light?

We need to look at these things with a sense of perspective, and not just emotionally. But that won't happen - if I speak against Anna Hazare, I am labelled as corrupt, if I do not thump my chest and shout anti Pakistan slogans, I am not a patriot!


  1. Who determines what is sensitive and what is NOT? The media? In the name of FREEDOM of speech we have created a Frankenstein. If it is the Army in Pak it is the media in India.

  2. The sad part is camera makes us do stupid things, on top of it, it is now only a hypocrit who will say that we in the Army are above board. Corruption is here to stay, what we need to look at is how can this be stemmed and arrested rather than being in the mode of self denial.

    Are there no longer any people who are above board, there are lots infact many. The sad part is they will look the other way when they see something amiss.....

  3. Corruption, protest, strikes and civil disobedience are a National Trait since Independence, since those in whose hands the reigns of the country fell at that time, retained the mindset of an enslaved nation.
    Corruption was, is and always be in every sphere of Life in India. Only the scale varies and the Cliche "a theft is a theft whether for a rupee or one Lakh Rupees" is a sick one.
    Some adopt corruption as a way of life, others are hanged for it. The Army is no different. "Since you are our last Resort, we shall not forgive you even one aberration" says a sick, demented and corrupt media. Does anyone realise that people join the Armed Forces as a last choice when everything else fails. This is because the Armed forces involve the maximum stress, strain, physical exertion, Family Deprivation and discredit with the least salary and conditions of service amongst all Government Jobs.
    Why should not a Jawan's wife go on a Hunger Strike, when a drunkard who is run over by a train, illegal occupants in a slum, passengers in an overloaded bus of boat who die or are injured get lakhs of rupees as a compensation. Has this Fauji not laid down his life for his country.
    You might say, that it is written in his terms of service. Well, it is but there are so many things also written to compensate him for this, which are denied repeatedly over time. He and his dependents are authorised FREE medical treatment for life, yet he is made to pay money for ECHS and even then given substandard medicines and treatment due to limitation in the funds made available by the Govt. His Pension was 100% reduced to 75% and then brought down to 50% to be below the Civil servants who serve longer till the age of 60. His Salary was set to be one scale above his Civil counterparts. That has been brought to be 3 scales below them. His status has been degraded over the years.
    AND we criticize the Fauji ?? Be thankful all you ungrateful apologies for human beings, that we still have a Loyal, Dependable ans A-Political Army. The Day we become like the Paki Army, no one will accuse or criticize our Fauji as they will ensure that they get their rightful dues. Be Grateful that the worst standard of stock which comes as a last resort, is trained into the finest Army in the World who not only ensures the security of our borders but also takes over all the duties of the other civil and police services who run away in times of danger or hardship.
    It's about time someone puts the record straight.