Thursday, September 09, 2010

Leave the Army out of this...

This is my second post on this subject, which is the involvement of the Armed forces in civilian matters.
Lately, there has been a lot of debate about he dilution of the 'Armed Forces Special Powers Act' of the AFSPA as its popularly (or infamously, now) known. The people of Jammu & Kashmir, as well as the State Government are strongly lobbying for dilution, repealing or at least diluting this Act. Others - champions of human rights, NGOs and so on, have also found opportunity to 'drift with the flow'. The Army, on the other hand feels, that rather than diluting the Act, it should be made even more stringent, thus enabling the Army to be more effective in dealing with the task that it has been entrusted with - that of fighting insurgency.
There is however, one dimension to this issue that sadly gets ignored always. In recent times, it is the Army that gets pulled in, at the drop of the hat, in almost any kind of civil emergency situation. The kind if situations that our soldiers are called to help in, are communal riots, natural calamities - floods, tsunami earthquakes etc, and now on a kind of permanent basis - counter insurgency.
It needs to be emphasised that the primary role of the Indian Army is to guard the frontiers of the Country. And, in a situation where the enemy States act in a manner that threatens the sovereignty of India, the Army fights to ward off any such threat, and this might mean killing enemy soldiers.

Considering this role, every single jawan or officer recruited into the Army, is trained from his first day of existence in the force, to fight a war and kill. For that is his 'raison de etre' in the Army. Over a period of years, his entire mental and physical make up, his psyche is that of a warrior.

Any Government however, will not hesitate even a little, in taking a decision to deploy the Army in situations where close civilian contact is warranted. In many such situations, the Army is helping out civilians from 'near death' situations.

And why does the Government trust the Army more than the thousands strong police forces and the para military forces? Because the Government knows that because of the strict code of discipline and chain of command, the army is the most effective in all such situations. This was also the reason why the Army first got deployed to fight insurgency and terrorism. The army did not want this, because this isn't the role of the Army. More importantly, this is certainly not what an average army man is trained for.

And when in the process of fighting terrorism, there is collateral damage by way of some civilians becoming causalities, it is the same Army that is blamed squarely.

Isn't this unfair?

It isn't the Army that's doing anything wrong. Its the political decisions that are all wrong.

The Army is tired of doing jobs that it wasn't expected to do. So therefore, by all means, repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. But at the same time, pull the Army out of all such situations, where you first depend upon them and ask for their help, and then blame them.
Its time the the para military forces - thousands of jawans, move in, to take over that job that the Army finds itself 'reluctant' to do. These jawans need to be trained, properly equipped with arms and weapons, and then deployed. If necessary, raise a specialised force to combat terrorism. But for God's sake, leave the Army out of this.
It's high time we stopped humiliating and demeaning an Institution that has over the years withstood all trials and tribulations, and still remains one of the most disciplined forces in our Country.
As a Country we should thank the Army for its services rendered, and forever be grateful to them. And then leave them to do the job they were expected to do, in the first place.

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