Human Rights and the Indian Soldier
Naik Ramesh was going on leave. Watching the lush green paddy field in the plains of Punjab go by from his military compartment of the Jammu Mail, he thought fondly of Indu, his loving wife back at home in Haryana. It was eight months since he had last been home on leave. She had just given birth to their first son, the cuddly little Rammu. He must be walking around now… His thoughts drifted him to a pleasant slumber, his head leaning on the window. The big explosion shook him awake but only for a movement; the windows—the windows grill that pierced his chest brought him instantaneous death.
Naik Ramesh was among the 30 odd army jawans who were killed in a bomb blast in the Jammu Mail near Pathankot last February. Another sixty or more were injured. The bombs were allegedly planted by the Hizbul Mujahideen in a surprise and cowardly attack on its main enemy, the security forces deployed in Jammu and Kashmir. The security forces had intensified their operation in the past few months.
A few trips on the field with the soldier, accompanying them on patrols or even exercises, will certainly help journalists gain a clearer perspective of the soldier’s task in counter insurgency operations.
The human rights activists had just a few weeks ago indicted the Army for its alleged excesses in Srinagar Valley as retaliation for the killing of a Major by the Kashmiri extremists. The Army, the NHRC alleged, had killed many innocents in the exchange of fire that had taken place.
The two incidents, just a few weeks apart, bring sharply into focus the hypocrisy and apparent bias of the some self-righteous human rights groups and also the myopic perception of certain sections of the media on the conflict in Kashmir.
The human right of Naik Ramesh and his helpless colleagues in the Jammu Mail on the fateful morning seem convenient to forget. After all what power does the National Human Rights Commission have over the Hizbul Mujahideen or other militants outfits? But think of it—the soldier only does his duty. He wears his uniform and stalks the militants through the jungles and towns of troubled Jammu and Kashmir to ensure the safety and security of the innocent citizen and the civil administration. Compare them with their adversaries. Dressed in civilian clothes, carrying weapons surreptitiously under their clothing, looking no different from the many ordinary villagers and townsfolk who dot the countryside; they strike at will, at their own choosing. By then it is often too late.
Just conjure the scene. Soldiers patrolling in the midst of a little town; suddenly a burst of deadly automatic fire from one of the buildings, they see their patrol leader a Major, dead in the first hail of bullets…
Just conjure the scene. Soldiers patrolling in the midst of a little town; suddenly a burst of deadly automatic fire from one of the buildings, they see their patrol leader a Major, dead in the first hail of bullets; they return fire as they have been trained. Fire is for effect, in the general direction of the militants. Some militants succumb, but unfortunately some innocent bystanders are also hit.
It is an unfortunate situation, but it is a price that a nation must pay, if the collective will to solve insurgencies is not forthcoming. Blowing the story out of proportion or talking of Army excesses and high-handedness, betrays an unfortunate lack of understanding of the difficult task that a soldier is asked to perform. It also reflects the irresponsibility of certain sections of the media towards comprehending the Army’s role in safeguarding and protecting national interests. A few trips on the field with the soldier, accompanying them on patrols or even exercises, will certainly help journalists gain a clearer perspective of the soldier’s task in counter insurgency operations.
It is time that we see our soldiers as protectors of human rights of innocent citizens and also, often, as the hapless victims in the human rights saga. Think again of Indu and little Rammu. They awaited so eagerly and joyously for the arrival of their breadwinner. Indu has now been widowed … Rammu will never remember his father … Their world has so cruelly crumbled.