It was absolutely sickening to see Om Puri being roundly humiliated on Times Now on Monday, evening. The abuse he has been subjected on social media to has been no less disgraceful.
Yes, it was insensitive for him to have said, “Did we force them to join the army? ” with reference to a specific instance and it looks even worse when a martyr’s father is inserted into the discourse. He apologised profusely but it was really just his construction that was awkward.
For there was absolutely nothing illogical about the point he was making – which is that death is an occupational hazard in that job. For all those screeching from the rooftops about how that insults soldiers, perhaps try and detach yourself from your conditioning for just a couple of minutes?
Why has the Indian Army become such a Holy Cow? For starters, there are people who do more dangerous work – firefighters, miners, construction workers, electric linemen, metal crafters, chemical and gas factory workers, sanitation workers, to start with. And, most significantly, the police.
Since independence, about 23,000 soldiers have been martyred. But 34,000 policemen have been killed in the line of duty in the same period. Why do the police not get the same respect? Their job is arguably as crucial (if not more) in a country as that of the army, much tougher and obviously more thankless. Everybody knows the army gets by far the most superior perks among all the services; that is not even disputable.
Is it because the police is seen as an instrument in the politician’s hand and the army deemed to be above civilian greed? Then, please explain the Sukna Land scandal, the Ration Supplies Scam, the Frozen Meat Scam, the Kargil Coffins scam, the Adarsh Housing Society Scam, the Barak Missiles scam, the Tatra Trucks scam and of course, the Bofors scam which overthrew a Government, among more than a few more. In 2005, there was evidence provided that RAW, IB and NSG do not recruit Muslims as a rule – would they ever dare to publicise this on their own?
In the end, our army is made up of people exactly like us – good, bad and ugly. So, why is it the Holy Cow which cannot be criticised or questioned? Why do some family members of army-personnel hyperventilate self-righteously when anyone appears to question the Army?
When people asked proof from this government for the surgical strikes, some people said – oh, how dare you accuse the Army of lying? Even if you discount the fact that the only armies in history that contradict their governments are infamous ones, what is this deification about?
In that same show where Om Puri was literally being abused by everyone, an Army Major aggressively let loose too saying that cultural exchanges were absurd when the country was “at war”. When someone gently pointed out that the Indian government’s position was unambiguously not that and we are certainly not “at war”, this man actually said – “who cares about what the government says.” He was not chastised by anyone.
None of this is to belittle the army at all. Every martyr deserves the honours he gets and every army person deserves full respect for the work he or she does. But a lot of other people deserve as much respect too (like the police), and there is no case to romanticise the armed forces like we do.
No other democracy seems to deify their armed forces in the manner we do. This is particularly scary in the context of the hyper-nationalism taking grip in our country today. Why is this not spoken about at all in any kind of media?