Self- inflicted injury, by its very nature and motivation, is considered abhorrent within military circles and dealt with quite harshly, not just in our military but also by other militaries around the world, especially when it impacts ongoing operations or existing operational capabilities. While such opprobrium is understandable, there is a need to differentiate between the actions of an individual soldier and that of military commanders, whose decisions may lead to deleterious consequences in the future, whatever their immediate motivation for taking it. Invariably those in the latter category tend to get away under most circumstances though it is they who are responsible for causing more long term damage.
…on numerous occasions militants have been able to escape after being located by Security Forces because of intervention by the local populace…
One may recall that at the time of the elections to the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly, an incident occurred at Chattergam in the Kashmir Valley in which two teenagers were tragically killed by the Army. They died when the car they were in refused to halt at a vehicle check post established by an army unit, which engaged them and forced the car to stop. Subsequently, nine personnel of the unit involved were indicted and both the Army Commander of Northern Command and the Corps Commander in the Valley went on record to state that there had been a failure of command and the troops involved had overstepped their brief. Undoubtedly such a firm indictment must have been arrived at based on facts that were never placed in public domain. However, suspicions remained that the actions initiated by the commanders were more likely at the behest of Mr. Modi, who had just come into power and had made some adverse observations on the incident, despite investigations being in progress at that time.
Whatever be the truth of the matter, its impact has been felt ever since as the obvious lesson for the troops and junior commanders conducting operations was that they needed to err on the side of caution before initiating any action, something completely impractical in such circumstances where decisions are made within a flash based on instinct, experience and probability. We thus have the ludicrous situation today that on numerous occasions militants have been able to escape after being located by Security Forces because of intervention by the local populace, something that was quite unimaginable even at the height of the insurgency in the early and mid- Nineties. This state of events obviously adversely impacts how the existing situation in the region is viewed both domestically and internationally and can clearly be attributed to hesitation on the part of army personnel to act, lest they be blamed. Can reports of alleged inaction on the part of some army columns sent to deal with the recent Jat agitation in Haryana, made by the Commission of Inquiry looking into the matter, be mere coincidence?
The implications of the military leadership in being either deliberately unwilling or unable to stand up for its serving officers is bound to have grave repercussions in the future…
We have similarly seen the military hierarchy abrogate its responsibilities towards serving officers when they are accused of wrong doing by the Police without various provisions of the law protecting them being applied. We thus had senior officers of the Army being complicit in the alleged illegal detention by the Anti- Terror Squad of the Mumbai Police of Lt Col Purohit in the Malegaon case. If one were to go by what is available in the media presently, it is only a matter of time before the Court throws the case out against him, which should enable him to proceed against his detractors for wrongful confinement and alleged torture. One hopes that those who were complicit in this act from the Army too face accountability.
The Army’s actions are no less condemnable with regard to permitting local police in Mizoram too, in what can only be termed as wholly illegal, arrest Col Jasjit Singh and some personnel from his unit on charges of allegedly robbing gold smugglers. That the smugglers, who brought the charges against them after a lapse of four months, have themselves been allowed to roam free raises grave questions against the conduct of the Police as well as their credibility.
The implications of the military leadership in being either deliberately unwilling or unable to stand up for its serving officers is bound to have grave repercussions in the future as serving soldiers will have less reasons to trust their superiors. Will the political dispensation be happy at the prospect of having to deal with an Army in which soldiers will continuously look over their shoulders and be reluctant to act? It is therefore absolutely imperative that the Ministry of Defence put in public domain as to who in the military establishment faltered in following up on laid down procedures as laid down in the Army Act and Rules that govern them and as to the reasons for their unwillingness to act. Accountability will go a long way in changing mindsets.
…we must also take into account the fact that self- inflicted injuries seem to be the stock in trade of our politicians here, regardless of their ideological bent.
All of this is in stark contrast to the manner in which the military leadership of the Israeli Defence Forces reacted to what they termed “as a grave breach of I.D.F. values, conduct and standards of military operations.” In an incident two Palestinian men stabbed and wounded an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint near a Jewish settlement enclave in the West Bank city of Hebron, in what has become a near-daily occurrence over the past few months. The troops responded to the attack and shot the assailants, resulting in their deaths. It later emerged that one of the Palestinians was subsequently killed in cold blood by an Israeli soldier, as he lay wounded much after control of the situation had been re-established by the Security Forces.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, in contrast, made his support for the soldier’s actions quite evident by speaking to his father, given the on-going state of the Palestinian revolt. The military’s action against the errant soldier was supported by the Defence Minister, Moshe Yaalon, and former Chief of the IDF, who subsequently resigned in protest against the Prime Minister’s actions. As a matter of fact Mr. Yaalon had insisted on senior army officers’ right to “speak their mind” after Deputy IDF Chief, Major General Yair Golan, enraged Prime Minister Netanyahu by comparing contemporary Israeli society to Nazi Germany.
In our context all of this is purely academic since such moral uprightness or strength on the part of most in the military hierarchy is unthinkable. Moreover, we must also take into account the fact that self- inflicted injuries seem to be the stock in trade of our politicians here, regardless of their ideological bent. Apart from their penchant for foot in mouth disease, they have little difficulty in shooting themselves in the foot at every opportunity they get. Thus, to expect them to stop our military leadership from causing systemic damage to the military appears highly unlikely.