I can’t stand this surgical strike on the Indian soldier anymore
It is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the hypocrisy of Indian nationalists. While the demonetisation drive laid bare how little most of them thought of their poorest countrymen (who were the most affected by a poorly executed plan that still shows no sign of respite), their reactions to a recent video uploaded by a BSF jawan is again illustrative of their indifference to any cause but their own.
The video in question, which quickly went viral, shows Tej Bahadur Yadav lamenting the poor dietary arrangements for soldiers at the Indo-Pakistan border. He gives visual proof of the food made available to him (and his fellow jawans) and delivers a brief monologue in which he accuses his superiors of pilfering the rations provided by the government. He doesn’t appear to be incredulous in the slightest and repeatedly asks just one question: how can soldiers be expected to do their duty in such tough conditions on such a poor diet?
Damage control in the aftermath of the video’s release was almost instantaneous. The BSF was quick to rubbish Yadav’s claims and went on the offensive stating that, “the soldier is a habitual offender of absenteeism without permission, chronic alcoholism and misbehaving with superior officers…For such reasons, individual (Tej Bahadur) has served mostly in headquarters under supervision of some dedicated superior officer”.
Pardon me if I — like many Indians whose judgement is not clouded by hyper patriotism — take the BSF’s statements with a pinch of salt. If Yadav was really such a “bad hat” and was supposedly court-martialled in 2010 for aiming his gun at a senior then what the hell was he doing at the border? Do we really want mentally unstable alcoholics guarding the nation? MDS Mann, BSF’s deputy inspector general, even hinted that Yadav’s poor career growth could be the cause of his frustration.
While it is rather pathetic how the BSF has resorted to character assassinating one of their own (in the video Yadav had already anticipated the flak he would get from his superiors), it is even more dismal to observe the silence or third-rate opinions of most nationalists on the issue.
On platforms where the video is posted, there are several people making absurd claims that Yadav was “bribed by Rahul Gandhi”. Some are calling him an “AAPtard” or “anti-national soldier” (the irony appears to be lost on them). Some are criticising the soldier for using his mobile phone on duty. Ranbir Singh, retired Subedar of CRPF, countered that “PM Modi is saying that this is a digital age and India is going cashless so why punish a jawan for having a mobile-phone?”. A Nitin Kishnan even called Yadav a “dalal” who is a debtor of India and hence has no right to talk like this. He also said that Yadav should go home and eat his wife’s food if he has any problems.
One Amit Sharma of the Chomu Rifles thought that the jawan in question was neither Tej (fast) or Bahadur (brave) but only a Yadav and hence a coward. According to the brave Mr Sharma, no Singh, Sharma or Shukla has ever complained like this but “Yadavs have cowardice in their DNA”.
It is truly disgusting to see BJP supporters stoop so low as to bring casteism even in the Indian army. This is why no one trusts Indian nationalists. Ever since the Pathankot attacks in January of last year, the BJP and its supporters have argued that the Indian soldier is beyond reproach because he is willing to sacrifice his life for the nation. Students of JNU and anyone else who questioned the army were broadly labelled as “anti-national”. Om Puri faced media and public backlash in his last days because he made a runaway comment on a TV debate where he said that nobody forced soldiers to join the army.
After the demonetisation drive was announced, impatient civilians were ridiculed for not being able to stand in queues “when-soldiers-are-sacrificing-their-lives-at-the-border”. Those who called for Puri’s head are now themselves telling a BSF jawan that he is a debtor of the nation, that he should go home to his wife’s cooking if he has a problem and are calling him a coward because of his caste.
There is also a curious silence on the issue from news channels such as Zee TV and Times Now who had raised patriotism to a fever pitch last year. There are no primetime debates or trendy hashtags (because #WeWereWrongAllAlong or #HungrySoldiers would make the government appear in bad light). Where the hell is Arnab Goswami, that patron saint of Indian soldiers? Oh right, he is busy setting up another caustic news channel to broadcast his lunacy. Good luck Arnab, you pigeon-hearted poltroon.
The BSF’s justifications and the nationalist’s criticism of Tej Bahadur Yadav are as predictable as a broken robot making astrological predications at a mela. But if you come down to it, what was his real crime? That he complained about bad food (as an aside, you never hear a politician complain about the quality of food served at the canteen)? Is that reason enough to make public his entire work record, something that should be held in confidentiality?
How does this solve anything? It is inevitable that there will now be a directive prohibiting mobile phone use by soldiers, something that is bound to cause inconvenience to those who are far away from their families in a Digital India that is going cashless. When some criticised the Indian army for its excessive force in Kashmir or in the NorthEast, they were only criticising the bad apples and not the entire basket. It was argued that some soldiers were misusing their powers but the nationalists would hear nothing of it and saw soldiers as suprahuman because they didn’t want to grant them the dignity of opinions. They don’t want to hear about the OROP or poor quality of bullet-proof vests. According to the nationalists, soldiers should shut up and work like the ants who serve the colony without questioning the hierarchy.
Indian nationalists should stop pretending that they give a damn about the solider because they clearly don’t. The mask is slipping. During demonetisation they didn’t care about the poor but now it emerges that they don’t care about the soldiers either. After all, a poster child is not supposed to talk back.
If civilians are asked to behave themselves because of the soldier’s sacrifice and the soldier is asked to behave himself because he’s a public servant then it’s easy to see that the only ones having a gala time are the middlemen between the public and the army: the politicians.
The ambivalence that Tej Bahadur Yadav has been subject to bring to mind something that the noted anarchist Emma Goldman said in 1917, “Considering the evil results that patriotism is fraught with for the average man, it is as nothing compared with the insult and injury that patriotism heaps upon the soldier himself, — that poor, deluded victim of superstition and ignorance. He, the saviour of his country, the protector of his nation, — what has patriotism in store for him? A life of slavish submission, vice, and perversion, during peace; a life of danger, exposure, and death during war”.
The author is a Calcutta based writer and the founder of Resetto (www.resetto.com).