JK News Today
Each time an issue of religion and faith touches the Indian armed forces, one cringes at the lack of understanding of their ethos and value system. The recent terror attack at Sunjuwan camp in Jammu city, with all its tragic impact, threw up an unpalatable issue which should have never emerged. It is in keeping with India’s unfortunate obsession for seeing every issue through the prism of faith or caste, so unlike the character of its Constitution.
The fatal casualties of the Sunjuwan terror attack were all courageous soldiers of the Indian army, belonging to one of its finest units, the 1st Jammu & Kashmir Light Infantry (1 JAK LI). Visit this unit and you have on display one of the shining examples of the idea of India; soldiers of different faiths bonded by the sweat and grime of soldiering and unified in the ideals of the uniform they adorn. A Ram Kumar, Harinder Singh or Ahmad Hussain, oblivious of the labels their names throw up in the minds of people and committed to the oath they undertake under the tricolour by touching all three holy books – Gita, Guru Granth Sahib and Quran – in an immensely moving ceremony at the JAK LI Regimental Centre at Rangreth in Budgam, J&K.
Lt Gen YVK Mohan, GOC Rising Star Corps pays tribute to the martyr of Sunjuwan Military Station terrorists attack, at Technical Airport Jammu On Tuesday.
That ceremony, signifying the emergence of a trained and patriotic Indian soldier, is heartwarming for parents, veterans and all other soldiers present because it’s a reminder of all that India stands for – equal opportunities for all, irrespective of the faith individuals follow. Each of these men is a special Indian whose life is placed on the line of duty for the nation, come hell or high water. All this demands that the individual soldier leaves his old identity behind and assumes the new, of being a true Indian.
Thus when we learn of the names of the warriors of India martyred through disgraceful and unmilitary like operations sponsored by our adversary, and identify them as Muslim, Hindu, Sikh or Christian – we disrespect the ethos of the Indian armed forces who always endeavour to give them a true national identity. Indeed if one examines this closely one will find a hidden agenda of the adversary, who is aware of the non-partisan nature and completely unified approach of our armed forces.
To create a chink there and widen that opening is his abiding strategy, nervous as he is of India’s successful multi-faith, multi-culture make up. Through the last year or more a large number of casualties along the LoC have been incurred by some brave units of the Sikh and Punjab regiments. Fortunately, none ventured to identify the Sikh martyrs by their faith. But unfortunate prevailing trends tended to put a label of faith on the martyrs of 1 JAK LI.
None of this would have happened if Indians were better educated about their armed forces. I blame here the armed forces themselves, and many times more India’s political community cutting across party lines. When the opportunity arises parties gush with extensive praise for the armed forces, but seldom do they wish to experience and educate themselves in the true sense.
When the National Defence College (NDC) extended an invitation to the parliament secretariat to send a few young MPs to participate in the yearlong strategic programme, which would enable them to add to the quality of the parliamentary defence debate, there was a sullen silence and no response. Seldom do we find occasions when members of the political community or corporate India are willing to spend a few days alongside troops at field billets, outside the ambit of VIP culture.
The armed forces themselves are to blame for never creating such opportunities and where rare occasions do arise, treating the visitors as VIPs. The true ethos of the Indian warrior’s value system never emerges to sensitise otherwise brilliant minds.
I am aware that the label of faith attached to the names of Indian warriors after the Sunjuwan incident may not entirely have been for political purposes, but to draw attention to the fact that Muslims too serve the army and make equal sacrifice as all others. Yet, this is done in a crass way at inopportune moments. A quiet reminder, from time to time, to the Muslim community by its leaders that they too have a place in the Indian armed forces and their sacrifice too will be perceived as a national sacrifice with equal honour to the martyrs, would probably go down much better.