It has been over two months when Major Gogoi’s used a civilian on the bonnet of his jeep. The incident refuses to leave the television screens. The naysayers won’t let it. This episode, along with some others, including remarks made by the Army Chief General Bipin Rawat, have dragged the Army into an avoidable political and public debate.
Those that condemn Major Gogoi’s unorthodox action, have been ad nauseam quoting two ex-Northern Army Commanders, who have spoken against it. The two are of course highly reputed Generals. However, there are scores of other senior veterans, equally competent and experienced in handling such situations both at the directional as well as at the shirtsleeve level. The majority of them have applauded the officer’s action, but they haven’t got matching media space. This selective quoting deprives the detractors’ argument of authenticity. Significantly, no one has suggested an alternative that Gogoi should have followed under the circumstances. Because, they know that the only other option, of the conventional military method, would have caused bloodshed.
It is not commonly analyzed why the Army is more effective and succeeds when all others have failed. There is an apt story of Rustom, the legendary wrestler, and strongman. A thief one night stole his horse. When the thief was about to gallop off, Rustom woke up and jumped on the horseback behind him. He then used all his physical might to make the thief let go of the horse but in vain. Finally, he asked the thief if he knew who the horse owner sitting behind him was. “I am Rustom”, he added. On hearing this, the thief fell off. The Army is the proverbial Rustom. It is not their physical capability but the psychological impact of a totally professional, impartial and fair handling of the situation that earns them the respect. The aura and awe the Army commands sets it apart from others and makes it a clincher. And this is perhaps what General Rawat implied in his remarks to the media when his use of the word ‘fear’ was taken out of context by the critics. More than fear it is the grudging respect and inherent intimidation.
India has faced fissiparous internal disturbances almost since Independence. Frequent employment of the Army to handle internal security situations has become a compulsion. Army, being the ultimate resource of the country must retain its effectiveness. That can happen only if we reduce its visibility, avoiding prolonged deployment in internal security situations. The Army needs to retain its detached cantonment character where it is seen and heard only rarely. However, while this is desirable, it is also impracticable, given the prevailing scenario.
This Army’s lack of exposure can, and should, however, be achieved in the media. It is disheartening to see some political leaders and commentators voice repeated public criticism of the Army. The Army has become a favorite prime time punching bag. The race for TRP, unfortunately, has serious negatives. It is even more hurtful to see many speak with assumed knowledge of Army’s ethos and operational philosophy. Being a specialized force, there is no gainsaying that only those that have spent time in uniform carry any credibility in commenting on the value system, the morale and motivation etc of the Army. Life in uniform can only be experienced, it can never be explained.
The terrorists in the Valley trying to drag down the Army, at the behest of our adversary, can be understandable. But why is the Army in crosshairs of the others? Why are human rights activists, peaceniks et al increasingly sniping at the Army? The institution is being unfairly portrayed as a violator of human rights. Statistically, in J&K from 1994 till April 2017, less than 3% of the HR allegations have been found to be true. This is a commendable record, given deployment of so many soldiers for so long in the disturbed situation.
Army also has a very efficient in-house mechanism to deal with errancy. There is near zero tolerance of indiscipline. For human rights violations alone, 68 persons have been punished since 1994. The organization that has the highest stake in maintaining strict discipline, is the Army itself. No commanding officer can let his men run loose and then hope to achieve any operational success.
We need to remember the Army is performing a very difficult task; they have been doing it with aplomb for years. Many soldiers have died and many maimed. The Army does not comprise aliens; they are own boys. They deserve and need our support and not our condemnation. Those unwilling to pat their backs should at least stop pummelling them. It does no good to keep picking at our healthiest tooth.
By Lt Gen Raj Kadyan
Author is Former Deputy Chief of Army Staff