Warren Buffet, perhaps the most successful investor of all time, with a piggy bank creaking under the strain of USD 64 billion, was once asked what the secret of his success was. Buffet said, “I buy when everyone else is selling. I sell when everyone else is buying”. Sound advice and solid judgment. No one can argue with that.
Now, take Warren Buffet’s advice and twist it to suit a narrow Indian context. What is the shortest route to fame? When every Indian is solidly behind the Indian Army, write an article abusing it. You set off a social media firestorm, gain instant infamy and suddenly everyone and their uncle knows you.
Truth be told, my first reaction to Aakar Patel’s article in the Times of India (6 November 2016) was one of dismay. Anger and hurt followed. Suddenly, there was absolute calm. The article was not the prey. It was bait. When you see something for what it is, you understand.
In his article, Aakar Patel accuses the pre-1947 Indian Army of being a mercenary army, of killing fellow Indians and a host of other imagined crimes. He then goes on to say that the sewage cleaner’s job is as dangerous as a soldier’s, and the soldier must not demand more in terms of parity. No data is given and no analysis is offered. It is just a few hundred words of rambling. Maybe an old wound. Who knows? It is surprising that The Times of India chose to publish such blatant hate mongering.
Yes, the British Indian Army was part of the British Raj. Yes, the Sappers defeated the Marathas at Assaye Ganj. On 14 August 1947 India was not the India that we know today. It was a loose confederation of 562 princely states, a veritable galaxy of Maharajas, Nawabs and other sundry rulers. The glue that held them together was the exploitative British Raj.
India, as a civilization, is more than 5000 years old. “Bharat Varsha” as we know it is older than most civilizations known to man. When the people of Bharat Varsha were poets, philosophers, kings and warriors, inhabitants of jolly old England were still in animal skins; there were no Roman Casers and Greek nation-states and the Egyptians has only begun settling in.
On 15 August 1947 India became an independent, modern nation state. And on that day, the Indian Army became a truly modern nationalist army. Since, Aakar Patel insists on splitting hair, it is important that he knows that in 1780 when the Sappers fought against the Marathas, there was no Pakistan. Lets twist logic on its head. Were fighting the 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999 (Kargil) wars also wrong? Because going by the logic offered by Aakar Patel, the Indian Army fought against people who were once Indian.
Most armies in the past were mercenary armies. During the Mughal period, Mansabdars were required to maintain foot soldiers and cavalry. These were contributions made to the Mughal Emperor in times of war. It was in 1857 that the East India Company almost lost India to the very soldiers that Aakar Patel calls mercenaries. It was then that Victorian England stepped in. Rebel soldiers were killed in their thousands, some hanged, some hacked to death and many blown from the mouth of cannon. There was disproportionate slaughter. Ninety years after 1857, we were a free and independent nation, with a free and nationalist army.
Aakar Patel condemns the soldier’s demand for parity. For soldiers, it is not parity that is separately important. Soldiers associate parity with societal prestige.
Soldiers demand rank parity because that is the bedrock of honor, on which there can be no compromise. We must also have parity because there are only two people in recorded history who have offered to die for you. The other one is Jesus Christ.
Retired soldiers do not insist on getting more than what retired teachers or schoolmasters do. The army is an institution that puts teachers on a pedestal. And that is why the best and the most cerebral amongst us become instructors. If teachers were to get emoluments far greater than us, we would not only be happy; we would applaud it. Teachers build a nation. Soldiers protect it. We complement each other.
Our issue is with the bureaucrats who practice deception, and who have brought things to such a pass. We seek parity with them. Blame us for being bull-headed, but it is difficult for us to understand how a babu serving in Guwahati is at a greater risk than our brother in Siachen.
Every profession is worthy of respect, be it the sewer cleaner, postmaster or the soldier. We do not claim to be superior to other professions. We claim to be different. Mr. Aakar Patel would do well to understand that our service comes with unlimited liability, not constrained by death and other inconveniences.
A soldier is not special because he claims to be better than those who do not wear the uniform. He is special because he voluntarily serves everyday in the face of certain death. History is replete with examples of how soldiers have always been looked up to. In America, a soldier or Marine in uniform often elicits spontaneous and public applause. As the famous Marine saying goes, “We are the last hundred yards of American foreign policy”. In the Indian context, the Indian Armed Forces are the final argument of the Republic of India.
And now let me tell you why we need those 36 fighter jets, and then 200 more. We live in a very rough neighborhood. We are flanked by two nuclear powers, with which we have fought wars. China is unsettled by India’s rise and claims thousands of square miles of our territory. There are annual incursions by the Chinese army into Indian Territory. About Pakistan, the lesser said the better. Their entire Jihadi-military complex exists for the sole reason of breaking up India. And they try very hard, everyday. Think of the fighter jets as our little insurance policy. And, pray desperately to God that we never have to use that policy.
Aakar Patel may seriously dislike the Indian Army and even hate it, but I will have him know that there is no alternative. It is that soldier that he despises so much, who stands between India and misfortune.
For seventy years, there has been systematic and institutionalized humiliation of this nation’s armed forces. It is people with his kind of mindset who are responsible for such a sorry state of affairs.
Mr. Aakar Patel, next time you go to work and cross the Madras Sappers HQ, I suggest you say a little prayer of thanks. Unless off course, in place of Assaye Ganj, you prefer to read “Iman Taqwa Jihad fi-Sabilillah”. In Chinese.
Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)