Thursday 3 November 2016

Uri, Unity and Understanding

News:At around 5:30 a.m. on 18 September, four terrorists attacked an Indian Army Brigade headquarters at the town of Uri near the Line of Control in a pre-dawn ambush. They are said to have lobbed 17 grenades in 3 minutes. As a rear administrative base camp with tents caught fire, 13-14 army personnel were killed. A gun battle ensued lasting six hours, during which all the four terrorists were killed. Additional 19-30 soldiers were reported to have been injured in the attack. Combing operations continued to flush out additional terrorists thought to be alive. Most of the soldiers killed were from the 10 Dogra and 6 Bihar regiments. One of the injured soldiers succumbed to his injuries on 19 September at R&R Hospital in New Delhi, followed by another soldier on 24 September, bringing the death toll to 19

Another terror attack. Another case of loss of lives. Another set of condemnation. Another case of getting back to Business as Usual. Are we reading it right. Yes I am afraid. But the initial look of it, the case looks like “one more added to the list”. But it is not just another terror attack and not just another case of loss of lives. This attack is right inside a Military base. The losses of lives are of our soldiers. This tantamounts to an act of war. Not that a soldier’s life is more precious than that of a normal civilian. But the signals and intent are different. When 19 army personnel lives are lost, it’s a huge embarrassment to the security establishment of a country. And immediately you hear a round of condemnation from those in power and positions. And then after a week everyone gets back to their routine. We hope that the routine is disturbed at least this time, as this is a case of war and this is the deadliest attack on security forces in Kashmir in two decades.

Soldiers do not join the forces signing up to die. But a former Editor of a leading National Newspaper thought so and tweeted that way. The same thought was put across previously by a couple of secular politicians during previous attacks. There seems to be complete lack of sympathy or empathy in the hearts of a huge percentage of our citizens when it comes to the attacks on security forces. Let it be the cases when Maoists have attacked and killed our security forces or when during these types of terror attacks, the general public doesn’t seem to feel the pinch or the pain or share their anguish. The usually active social media which keeps buzzing at the drop of a hat was busy discussing mundane stuff post this attack. Rightly social media erupts at any injustice or crime. If a woman is raped or killed, rightly women and men rise up in anger and fill the social media and the streets with posts and protests respectively. If anyone from any underprivileged section of the society is attacked or assaulted, rightly the rest of the citizens stand up for them and criticize such attacks. If a dog is thrown from a terrace by two psychopaths, the animal activists and the rest of the society too rightly vent their anger in social media and create pressure to nab those culprits.

We have to be happy that such inhuman and criminal acts aren’t acceptable in our society and hence the citizenry is reacting rightly with frustration, anger and anguish. But when it comes to the lives of our soldiers and police, all these real life activists, social activists and armchair activists go into hiding. The youth of the country keep themselves busy with cinema, cricket, their own state related issues, memes, forwarding jokes and what not. Some Tamil dailies carried the suicide of a suspected murderer in its front page as Headline news pushing the martyrdom of these 19 soldiers to a smaller space in the newspaper. This is kind of apathy is truly shocking and worrying especially when its seen amongst the youngsters of this country. This is kind of non-reaction doesn’t make them less patriotic or less human. I am not here to certify who is more patriotic and who is less patriotic. But these are the times when one has to stand up and stand shoulder to shoulder for the sake of our security forces who are braving against many odds and are ensuring that we sleep peacefully daily at our homes. Lack of sympathy and empathy and having no anger or pain at such times demoralizes our security forces. They feel let down at the most important and crucial juncture. 

Such a callous attitude from the citizens encourages the government of the day too to not react in a manner that is expected out of them. There has been lack of accountability and responsibility after every terror attack. There has been either lack of intelligence or in this case intelligence inputs weren’t acted upon. No heads have rolled post any attack. Fortunately this government is showing at least some kind of stronger intent (which we are hopeful will get translated into action) when it comes to dealing with situations like these. The number of terror attacks has come down sharply. The Prime Minister in his Independence Day address, made stunning remarks on the problems in Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. We would still have to wait and watch what the follow up steps are in this regard. Pakistan has openly stated many times in the past that their strategy has been to bleed (weaken) India through a thousand cuts internally. It can never afford to go for a direct war initiated from its end openly. It will continue to push for covert operations, infiltrations and terror attacks. The time is ripe for India to pay back Pakistan similarly by giving a taste of its own medicine. And the Prime Minister’s statements on Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and Pashthunistan looks promising. For a tooth, an entire jaw must be the approach that needs to be followed. For every attempt on Kashmir by them, should be countered with strong actions from our side on Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan Pashtunisthan.

The attack was preceded by a phase of disturbances and violence in the Kashmir Valley clearly supported by the forces across the border. For the first time our security forces after lot of thought and consideration, used pellet guns to put the violence to rest. But shamelessly, some of the mainstream media channels, pseudo-intellectuals, secularists, pseudo-progressives and pseudo-liberals attacked the government and the security forces instead of condemning the violent protestors. They didn’t dare to questions as to what role do children play in street violence and protests. The Indian state was portrayed as a rogue state to the outside world by these criminals. That the security forces put at risk their lives and they too were getting injured and killed in the violence was completely hidden by these criminals in their coverage, posts and statements. Worryingly though the number was very less, anti-national Tamil forces organized and drummed up support for the Kashmiri cause during this troublesome phase. Similar acts were enacted from Bengal and other places too. The Uri terror attack has followed up these disturbing events. That’s a very important point to note. Sections of mainstream media and the other usual suspects after initially expressing caution, have now gone back to the old ways of building bridges with Pakistan by ask for talks, people to people engagement, Bollywood and Paksitan cine industry engagement in each other’s countries and playing cricket. And sections of the youth and sections of mainstream society not being bothered or not being anguished, pained and angered with the Uri attack is calling for some radical steps to change the narrative of the country.

There definitely needs to be a change in the curriculum at both school and college level by including our rich and victorious military history in the syllabus. More exposure about the life in the Armed forces and interest in the armed forces should be given to the students through the National Cadet Corps (NCC) by increasing the strength and budget for the NCC cadets. The cine industry must be encouraged to make more movies about our victorious military campaigns and war heroes. The novel idea of Param Veer Vandanam being done in the annual Hindu Spiritual and Service Fair in Chennai where school students offer their respects and salute to the Param Veer Chakra awardees recognizing their supreme sacrifice for the nation should be encouraged to be practiced at least once in a year in all the schools in the country. The government should reach out the senior Military officers and retired military personnel to get inputs and novel ideas to bring the armed forces much closer to the civilian population’s heart and mind. These and many other radical and sensible steps must be taken by this government to ensure that its citizens are on board at all times for the sake of the armed forces. The government should also come out with a stronger message and action which will ensure that not one more life is lost in this nation to Pakistan’s designs. So it’s a two pronged strategy that the government should think about and play out – one will be internal to change the narrative and two will be external to set the narrative. Our best wishes and support to the Indian government in this regard.
Sreenivasan .B.R

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