I would only like to emphasise that the Indian Armed Forces is an implementation arm of the political masters.It is also my understanding that their strategic and tactical actions are also tuned to such political perceptions or policies.This is the legacy of that much applauded apolitical character of the role of the Armed Forces in a so called post colonial democracy and that too in an underdeveloped country. Army does not dictate a larger political philosophy.Instead it is the other way round.Many honest and nationalist generals have voiced their own concerns against a militarist approach and have suggested a political solution as the only solution.That it ends up in a mess is an unwritten tragedy yet but erroneously put in the front door of the Armed Forces which needs, also to to be brought out before the misinformed public.Killing is not the vocation of these men in uniform much as this might be good slogan for motivation.All, need to know they too, need to be understood as patriots with a confused job description. What with nationalism and martyrdom itself misunderstood ever so often !
General Bhupinder Singh‘s coming out of the closet is indeed timely. The country would like to hear how the military and its brass,thinks, in particular , about nationalism, dissent, disruptive politics and of course patriotism which is not of the “sarkari” kind. What is to be termed as defiance or much worse sedition?
The General has spoken and spoken with intelligence, courage and acuity :very seldom noticed, otherwise in most others of his kind, when dabbling with matters, not traditionally military. The General stands under the flag of his own choosing : a tri-colour without the shadows of the unseen hand. The masses need to be educated about the Armed Forces to be, yet another job : only a little bit risky and difficult at times.It is to be borne out of a purgatory.Not to be an act of apology or much less shame.It is to remain proud and forthright as before,only the definition is to be different.
It is time also to look beyond the feudal understanding of the military from the glorified notions to be all self sacrificing and made out of different elements than that of normal society.They are always only and as good as the people and society they represent and come from.Their training, task and objectives,framework of functioning demand a different set of skills both soft and hard.How it should be read in the present context and freedom that we have in the word called parliamentary democracy has to be re-visited and re-interpreted without the hoopla of derring-do and martyrdom.What with no wars being fought with the enemy on the outside but very much within – in the era of counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency !
Have we become or reduced to just a better peacetime para-military force and to be mirror imaged with lesser and limited versions of guardians of combat and geographies? How do we relate to our pristine and designated goals set in the context of a new and free India against what we are called upon by governments and not the state with the passage of time? Have the lines of such distinction got blurred? Has our reading of military history changed accordingly for history is dynamic and is constantly being seen differently and re-calibrated with changing socio-economic and political realities? The clothes of the Emperor proverbially is what meets the eye.Tragically so. Are we in the military ready to adapt and accommodate or much better still,re-morph ? Change?
A few erstwhile Generals and Admirals have confessed in public or privately AFSPA to be a bone of contention consequent of unfortunate realpolitik.Are they then indications of a changing mind-set? or isolated sparks of misguided or the disgruntled? Those that wear the uniform and weapons are but an agency.They are human and are not just trained to shoot. They would also like to know whom the masters want to kill or destroy. Who is the enemy is a moot question which the military is slowly standing up to ask, albeit when not in uniform. ..
JNU has been in the forefront of articulating themes of protest against most anti-people policies in its own and well considered perceptions. It is also true that some of the most talked about and oft quoted visiting professors, teachers and students have been associated with this institution namely Sarvepalli Gopal, Romila Thapar,Sitaram Yechury,Prakash Karat the Pattnaik husband and wife duo,among many others.Quite recently at the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University(JNU) there have been meetings (true to tradition) held by a section of the the students protesting the high handedness of the present government and its intolerance of dissent.This led to a chain of events culminating to the arrest of the elected President of the JNU Student Union, Kanhaiya Kumar . It has since come to hold centre-stage in the national imagination. Contentious issues of what is Nationalism, Fascism and Freedom of Speech seem to be agitating young minds and increasingly threatening the future prospects of the democratic process in the University and the country at large. Into this confusing and heated cauldron the Air Force Association, a registered NGO,which runs a web blog on Facebook (created for the purposes of taking care of the interests of the veterans) has taken up cudgels to define and interpret as to what such tongue or mind teasers may mean,their limits and the unsavoury consequences thereof should the veterans be found wanting.( even though they do not wear the uniform in a manner of speaking).
Air Marshal Vir Narain is a free man. And a brave man, too.I dare say ! His perspective is respected by me and I would imagine many others too. I quite agree to what he says ever so briefly but firmly. There is no question of AFA to be apologetic or defensive since he sat at the very top some time ago. The AFA seems to have a point of view to which he has another. The democratic spirit of letting a hundred flowers and thoughts to bloom is reflected in the dissent. In this kind of ‘vivad’ lies the process to cognition of a different truth… That is why a certain Indian Nobel winner celebrated the Argumentative Indian. For the moment it would be fair to say I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it. I also notice now that the Air Marshal has only reposted something that he agrees to and urges others to reflect upon.The AFA has jumped into a domain, which by its own admission, is politics. (That it actually pleases me is not part of argument, here).Then,it makes me wonder why the hyper- stridency by AFA and to push a very “sarkari’ definition of nationalism and what amounts to acceptable student affairs( which uncomfortably resembles and seems aligned to the government of the day) ? Was there an urgent order from the three Army Chiefs at the behest of the Ministry of Home and Defence, I shall never know(but inclined to surmise). Is it the ideology of AFA? To pretend or to be ignorant of the politics that it represents thereby concurrently would be patently naive.There is nothing wrong to appear friendly or subservient to a kind of thinking.But to seek comfort behind a fictitious world of being apolitical and to be the flag bearer of military version of nationalism is at best wishful thinking and at worst to be champion of the government and its politics ! That the AFA is finding it difficult to see the sagacious urgings of the Air Marshal in its proper light and instead wishes to take a high moral ground on the shoulders of some FB enthusiasts, albeit military, unfortunately highlights the problems involved in a surrogate association two-timing the serving IAF to promote the interests of the latter and also hoist the flag for the totally free and unencumbered ‘veterans” as its chosen and its legitimate voice and platform. Air Force Association (AFA)would purportedly like to also tell us all ( the veterans) of what is the limit. To quote : Any friend of the AFA on this page indulging in anti India activities or appearing to be supportive of anti India elements will be first Unfriended and then blocked from this page.Please be careful in whom you support.
Unfortunately you forget, you are because of us the bloggers and not otherwise. To feel otherwise is to miss the wood from the trees and trippily imagine the player to be bigger than the game.Blogging is not a military standard Operating Procedure. The Blogosphere is a free world made to express one’s ideas without fear or favour.AFA has chosen to tread this very dangerous territory of its own accord.I’m afraid you hold the rights limited to the blog,and for that you decide the parameters . To quote again the aggressive and rather ill advised missive of AFA so that the readers get to see the correct picture.(Friends, A very special and endowed individual only can have the honor of wearing any Rank connected with the Indian Armed Forces. These stripes on our arms or our shoulders come to us with tremendous responsibility. The responsibility stays with us till our last breath because we, as leaders of our men, convinced our juniors to fight for the cause that is India.
We can, at no stage, be seen to be supportive of anything or have a thought against this nation and claim that the opinion is our personal and thus doesn’t influence anyone.
Our loyalty to the Nation lasts even as a private citizen and no one in or out of the uniform can claim exemption and support anti India elements in the garb of freedom of speech.
The AFA will continue objecting to any such expression and will expose all such individuals who misguide the gullible in the name of freedom of speech.
We’re all subject to that lakshman Rekha where the idea of India is supreme.)
But did you not set out to test the waters of independence and a certain free wheel of ideas just to see how contemporary you are or growing to be ? You always knew the path was tricky. To decide upon what is freedom of expression,military propriety,honest criticism, the Constitutional provisions, the role of Supreme Commander, the government of the day, its bureaucrats etc you have exposed the faultlines in your feebleness of heart. I wonder whether it ever occurred to you that you may stand to be accused of authoritative trolling in a medium that ostensibly is contrary to that kind of sensibility.Yes we are expected to be civil and not obscene.Your proposition or may I say, the whispered threat would have then successfully created a large band of yes men, servile and mentally challenged with compulsory “likes” on Facebook ! the nay sayers would have switched happily and found other online social media platforms anyways ! Did we not have enough of it already while in Uniform ? Most seem to speak out only when out of it.It is a sad but, true.But, by trying to say “either with us or nothing,” I’m afraid you would have lost the larger battle of the Information Warfare that you should seek to take control of and be in command.(but with greater tolerance, caution and vision,perhaps).
I, seriously wonder, when most veterans of the Vietnam War turned against the employers, USA,the politicians and government on their way back home questioning why and who sent them there to fight no war that was theirs does history define them as traitors today ? It would be a great test of internal cleansing to hear from AFA how does it record that kind of its very own past and does it see in that , some unfortunate resemblances.
They aren’t very pretty,anyways. I am sorry to say .
But, that would be another story.For another day !