In a hyper-communal environment with growing sentiments of ethnic chauvinism, we as a nation seriously need to introspect on what it means to be an INDIAN. The Armed forces provide a handbook on the same with valuable takeaways.

Contrary to an average civilian who is introduced to the concept of Diversity through formal schooling via pedagogues or books, I, owing to the itinerant nature of my Dad’s job in the Indian Army, have been privileged enough to witness this diversity first hand.

A great deal of my understanding of India’s diverse cultural milieu has been shaped because of my Fauji background. A sense of belongingness and a simultaneous appreciation of diverse cultures, ethnicities, religions and languages came to me through the Indian Military traditions. The entire Fauj is a profoundly diverse community, a huge old military family – bereft of divisions on the basis of caste, class, creed or religion; united by shared love for the nation and the army community.

Originally, I am from Punjab, but today, I can easily sing the Bengali prayer “Amader Bhalo Karo Hey Bhagwan”, that I learnt while dad was posted in Siliguri; I have successfully memorised the Assam Regimental song “Badlu Ram ka Badan Zameen ka Neeche hai” line by line, I know it by heart; I know some amazing Malyalam slangs that I was taught as a kid by my neighbours; and last but not the least, I can count from 1-20 in Sinhalese, something that I was taught by my Sri Lankan acquaintances who had accompanied their fathers for a course at Mhow, MP. Needless to say I have seen, heard, read, experienced, internalized and celebrated the Diversity our country has to offer ever since I was born.

Sentiments of respect and embracement towards all faiths, is demonstrated in the fact that most cantonments have a common worship place – Sarv Dharma Sthal, for people from all beliefs. We celebrate Janmashtmi, Holi, Eid, Gurupurab, Christmas – all with equal fervor and gaiety. Greeting with a casual “Ram-Ram”, Hindu soldiers praying in Gurudwaras of Sikh regiments, Sikh and Hindu soldiers paying homage during Eid festivities in a Grenadier regiment mosque seems very organic to us. Baba Harbajan’s shrine en route to Nathula pass generates an unmatched vigour in soldiers from all communities, alike.  The Rajput regiment’s war cry, “Bol Bajrang Bali Ki Jai”, the Sikh regiment’s “Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal” or the Maratha regiment’s “Har Har Mahadev”, send shivers down the enemy’s spine when proudly uttered by every soldier of the Paltan, irrespective of their religion.

We as a nation today direly need to derive inspiration from the secular ethos the armed forces have stood for. The barracks of unity and a shared love for the motherland have for long safeguarded the cantonments from all sorts of pernicious ethno-communal propaganda. After bravery and patriotism, one can definitely learn this embracement of plurality from the best.

Image Credits: Ed Times

Rubani Sandhu

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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

With debates regarding the entry of women into less conventional professions, we need to confront their absence from the armed forces of the country and explore the reasons behind it.

Women have increasingly been venturing into less explored, ‘unconventional’ roles. Right now, they are employed in all wings of the armed forces except in direct combat. Last year, the Commander of Chief, Bipin Rawat, made headlines when he said “I am looking at women coming as jawans. I am going to start it soon. Firstly we will start with women as military police jawans.” The Indian Air Force also recently enrolled women as fighter pilots, while the Indian Navy has yet to recruit women as active combatants. The Indian Air Force’s Avani Chaturvedi made history when she became the first Indian woman to fly a fighter jet in January of this year.

While there have been many arguments regarding the recruitment of women in such positions, like the unsuitability of their bodies to harsh conditions, the male-dominated world where masochism pervades, the lack of longevity of female soldiers due to pregnancy and other bodily needs, the need felt by male soldiers to protect their female counterparts even in battlefields, and of course, the old argument that some things are best left to men. However, despite such arguments, women have shown to be of greater grit than they are culturally assigned. Historically, women in India have been employed since 1888 when they were recruited as a part of the Indian Military Nursing service. Even now, they are employed in many fields as junior ranks, combat supervisory roles, and allied fields such as law, engineering, combat nursing etc. Yet, the penultimate realisation is that the highest strata of positions in fields are still reserved almost exclusively for men. It is only recently that some women have been promoted to the higher ranks.

There is also a crucial need for revision in the framing of policies regarding the recruitment of women. There are a range of court cases being filed against the reluctance of the armed forces to provide permanent commission to women soldiers which would grant them pension. There is also a lack of change in cultural conceptions when it comes to the entry of women into such fields. The assumption that women are physically weaker and also more emotional restricts their recruitment. There is also the added ‘burden’ of motherhood that the policy makers automatically assume will be a part of every woman’s life. The lack of social experiments in the military speaks to this fact.

The bottom line is, regardless of whether or not women are more suitable for extraneous physical demands that the armed forces require, we need to at least give them a chance to prove their worth. As the groundbreaking Air Force experiment has proven, if given the opportunity, there is no battle a woman cannot win.


Feature Image Credits: Firstpost

Sara Sohail

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