By Rukma Singh
Do men in olive greens have any human rights? If yes, then why no one is coming out and raising a voice for the slain soldiers.
Last week in Manipur’s Chandel district, at least 20 soldiers of the 6 Dogra battalion were slaughtered and over a dozen were injured. The tragic incident was identified as the deadliest blow to the Army since 1982 when 20 jawans were similarly killed in the state leading to the escalation of militancy for years to come.
In Himachal Pradesh, a somber atmosphere prevailed in seven villages where the last rites of slain soldiers were performed with full military honours. Hundreds of people attended the cremations.
Some families did not even get a chance to have a last glimpse of the slain soldiers since the army had asked them not to open the caskets because the bodies were charred beyond recognition.
Strangely, if this would have been an issue of defence personnel going all out against the ultras, the rights bodies would have come out in protest and the issue would have also found support in the social media.
Of Laxity And Lives
Towards this momentous problem related to the rights of Indian soldiers being gunned down, why has there been a laxity in the attitudes of the State, the media and the citizens alike?
A fact that is conspicuous by its absence here is the lack of public response and media participation in terms of delving deeper into the roots of the attack. The contrast between the Manipur incident and the instances in Kashmir where the entire country came together to advocate against violations of human rights is stark. Citizen journalists and advocacy councils spring up every time even if a bird loses its feather.
But absolutely no interest has been shown by the rest of the country to combat violations that have happened in Manipur, in the form of innocent soldiers on duty being shot.
The Humans In Army
In cases of internal insurgencies, army is typically seen as an agent of atrocities. The army, in popular discourse, is portrayed as a raping, murdering entity, which is as insensitive as the weapons its soldiers wield. People who populate the ranks are seen as a solid monolith, not just by the ordinary people of the conflicted area but by the state controlling them too. Army is nothing more than a battering ram, a Trojan horse that is destroyed in the process of destroying.
However, the widows and orphans left behind by the martyrs tell a different story. And after the ashes of the dead settle, the wails of the ones left behind echo in the houses on both sides. Yet the exclusion of soldier from the teary, rosy pages of books written by human right activists is a fact both pathetic and heartbreaking.
Jaya Peesapathy, an Indian woman residing in Hong Kong, runs a radio show based on the Indian Army. When asked about the problems faced by the Indian Army, she points out, “The army men cannot share their emotions very openly. With the kind of work they do, it’s not so suitable. If one actually gives a thought to the kind of trauma they go through emotionally, they’d realize that it is something one can’t easily handle.”
The lives of these army men and their families are in a constant state of turmoil. Chaos, hopelessness and fear have become a part of their routine lifestyle.
It’s frightening to even imagine going to sleep every night with the fear of waking up to the news of not having a loved one anymore, and to live one’s entire life without having been allowed one last glimpse of the departed.
The soldier is a human bound by duty. He is an Arjun in the battlefield of Kurukshetra. And till the time a world without countries or boundaries is achieved, every Mahabharata will have a misunderstood Karan.