Countries all over the globe irrespective of their economic, social, political stances, are unified by a common pillar of authority- the army. From the very ‘apolitical’ institution which runs on political instructions to the cinema glorification of martyrdom and kurbaani comes along a deep-rooted question, how over-glorified is the Army?
From spending nights in -20 degrees at the border to the excruciating heat, living each day unaware, the Army very well reminds citizens of patriotism, valour and strength. However, in the recent changing political scenarios, the notion of the Army, all over the globe has been put on a pedestal and appropriated as the peak of nationalism. Most debates, start with ‘humare jawan’ and end at the declaration of being an anti-national if your stance disobeys the dominant stance. The Pulwama attack by the Islamist militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed brought forth a cold-war like situation between India and Pakistan where the nations remained divided between pro and anti-war demands. Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman VrC who was held captive for 60 hours in Pakistan was conferred the Vir Chakra gallantry award in August 2019. Indians sought revenge while failing to acknowledge that the Army consisted of humans, who would put their lives at stake, but not at the cost of initiating a war.
What ensued was nothing but the very glorification of the Army as ‘finishing the war’.
The US Army throughout history has been notorious for having committed gruesome murders in countries like Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq, to name a few. Does mass-killing deserve the God-like status that is being accorded to the Army? Kashmir and the North-East have been victims to heinous rapes which have been silenced and hushed in history books. The Kunan Poshpora incident is an alleged mass-rape that was bestowed upon the Valley on the unfortunate night of February 1991 where over 23 to 100 women were raped by army according to the Human Rights Watch. Even though, these were discarded as terrorist propaganda by the government and the Army. The Army, BSF and CRPF have been accused numerous times in the Valley for having committed rapes.
“Indian Army, Rape Us.” ought to be one of the most controversial statements of the erstwhile decade, used while protesting against the possible rape of Thangjam Manorama who was seized by Indian Paramilitary Unit under suspicion under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which allows the forces to carry out excesses in Manipur without the fear of prosecution. As a sign of protest, all ‘imas’ (Manipuri mothers) stripped and asked the forces to rape them in broad daylight who were later arrested. Later, the victim’s autopsy revealed signs of rape and torture.
The glorification of martyrdom is considered a reasonable debate to lead citizens to war. The Armed Forces would never urge for war as opposed to the constant demand of raging war by political leaders and citizens as they sit in the comfort of their homes demanding bloodshed. The army never self-prides in war or demand their pedestal-like status, throughout ages and ideological conflicts, the Army has been bestowed upon with such unnecessary status.
Aniket, a student of Maharaja Agrasen College and an Army brat believes that most of the people remain unaware of the Army’s operations yet vouch for wars. “All army men who have been to the war would always seek to lower the possibility of wars.” Further, as Tharoor says, “the best of India can only be preserved by insulating the Army from the pressures of the worst of India”
The leaders and public politicise the Army for their own needs and forego their needs and welfare such as better pay, welfare or One Rank, One Pension and sufficient provisions post-retirement. Dragging the Army in issues ranging from nationalism to protests, not only glorifies the Army but also deteriorates its values. Surgical Strikes and Pulwama Attacks are some very cheap game-play undertaken by the party in power to bank off the public’s votes to suit their interests.
The collective conscience is regularly evoked and refreshed due to the constant portrayal and glorification of jingoism in movies such as ‘Uri’ and incidents as shown in ‘Rustom’ which place the forces on a holier than thou status from a public’s eye-view. Capitalising the very forces and romanticising their valour is yet again shameful in distorting the forces and glorifying their duties.
Aniket further reiterates, “Political leaders consider war as the final gateway to greatness.” He believes that wars are glorified not the army. “The facilities the forces get are nowhere near what they should be. I don’t think in India the Army is glorified, in some places they are under glorified.”
Image Credits: The Wire