Discontent in Indian Forces and its Possible Outcomes

I happened to talk of the situation in the sub-continent with a friend of mine, an ex-Indian Army Officer. He discussed the disenchantment amongst the ex-servicemen (ESMs) that is brewing in the country right now. Media doesn’t report on it, the common man doesn’t care, the communists and pseudo-pacifists consider Army as anti-national (while basking in their security), and the Babus & politicians play with them. I had carried a series of articles on the state of the Indian Defense forces and this very topic.

I had also written about the betrayal of Nehru and Menon and sent to friends who had ESMs in their family and had been around in the China War, so they could give their views. In personal conversations, the friends confirmed that the Defense Officers had read that article with great deal of interest and one of my friend quoted her Dad as saying “Pretty Accurate”. To get even that out of him, she said was a BIG feat.

I had suggested in my article on the humiliation of Indian Army that to look at Lt. Col. Purohit’s case in terms of “Hindutva” attack is to play on the religious prejudices in the Pseudo-secular and communists in India. If you see the targets – Samjhauta Express, when it was taking Pakistanis to Pakistan and Muslim area Malegaon – you would see that there was a deliberate attempt to choose the victims. One can very easily see it as a case of religious intolerance and keep harping on things one is used to – “hindutva” etc .. and nothing can be done.

Also read:  Myths of Gandhism, Ram, and the Partition

However, in my view, the situation speaks (indeed, shouts) about a malaise that nobody wants to remedy – Humiliation of the Defense Forces and the Discontent! To understand what I am saying, read this:

The Danger of Letting the Pot Boil Over. It is evident this problem is not going to blow over in a hurry. Those who are trying to brush it under the carpet are leading the nation to grave risk. At the moment, the situation is confined to an untidy looking tent in Jantar Mantar, but if the splinters of this fire fly out, any of the following can happen:

  • Attractiveness of military service may plummet from its already abysmally low level. Who would like to become an officer or strive to rise in the system where generals and colonels are treated in this shabby manner?
  • If, the sympathy wave travels to the South Block, the civil military relations may reach a flash point, and the consequences can be disastrous.
  • And indeed, if a few hot heads boil over, the nation may have to pay a very heavy price. Soldiers are trained to handle weapons and destroy infrastructure. I shudder to think beyond this point.

This is a letter from Maj General Surjit Singh to a blog on/by/for/of Ex-Servicemen – Report My Signal. What Maj Gen Singh is saying here is ominous… and worse POSSIBLE! Heck, Lt. Col. Purohit is, in my view an evidence of that.

Discontent can take many forms. The ire of most ESMs on the blog is against the IAS officers and for a reason. Read this to understand:

Only 7% of military officers get promoted to Brigadier rank after 28 years of service, much of it in hard areas, while 100% of the Indian Police Service officers are elevated to the “equivalent” post of Director/ Inspector General after 14 years of service. Similarly, only 2% of military officers get promoted to major general after 32 years of service, while 100% of IAS officers are promoted to the “equivalent” senior administrative grade after 14 years of service. (This coincidentally shows how the Indian Administrative Service is one-up on the IPS!). But this is not about officers alone, because the status inequity goes down the hierarchy to the sepoy who, though living a much riskier life and retiring much earlier, becomes inferior to his civilian counterpart.

The inequity is obvious. The damage that this inequity does to the preparedness, quality and ability of the serving Indian Army is NOT. Similarly, the discontent and the anger it can cause in the ESMs is also not apparent.

Humiliations of Past Wars
Very few, if any, of our generation has ever heard of Tithwa and Haji Pir. These were two peaks which Indian Army tried to win in 1965 war against Pakistan. Many perished, but we still won. However, Shastri had those peaks returned back for …. well… NOTHING! The night he signed the agreement and also died, his wife did not want to talk to him despite repeated calls to India from his hotel in Tashkent.

Similar story was repeated in 1971 War. This generation today is angry that we returned 3 prisoners in Kandahar to Pakistan (Jaswant Singh’s act); but no one remembers the return of 90,000 Prisoners of War….. for ….. well… NOTHING! Expect for a piece of paper called Shimla Agreement – which was not probably even worth the paper it was written; for Bhutto is supposed to have started the preparation for Nuclear weapon on his return from Shimla in the right earnest.

If you were an officer of a regiment which may have suffered incalculably and then see the inequities in the pay and STILL asked by the politicians and the IAS officers to do the sacrificing day in and day out; while the Human Rights guys keep on second-guessing you; what will you do?

It is, I believe, a testimony to the professionalism of our forces that just one Purohit has happened. The possibility is of many. And more deadly ones. LIke Maj Gen Surjeet says, these ESMs are TRAINED to use weapons and fight wars and kill. To humiliate them and subjugate them can be carried on for only so long.

It is imperative that Indian public understands that the peril that our society is being pushed to with the kind of handling of forces that our politicians and babus have been doing – which is a DIRECT offshoot of a pusillanimous and a weak foreign policy and terrorist situation handling – which leads to calling for sacrifice of our Jawan for NOTHING more than yet more humiliation. There is a cost attached to that discontent. I doubt we understand.

Results of discontent

Purohit, in my view, was avenging his anger, against what he considered to be his enemy – Pakistanis and whom he considered (for whatever reason) their “sympathisers”. The results of discontent against a political system, may be MORE terrible!

And, contrary to the image that people have in their mind of retired ESMs – happy go-lucky old chap with large moustache and a cap – may not be as true. Remember Jawans retire at 38 and 60% officers leave the Army by 54 [1]. That’s a very YOUNG pool of discontented officers! Not that they have had good leadership – but if they did, then a coup in India may be a real possibility.

Reference Links:

1. The Fauji Devalued

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