Cry My Beloved Country—Military Veterans Assaulted By Police
The assault on military veterans, at Jantar Mantar on August 14, might go down in history as the lowest point of the Modi government.
These lines are being penned on the 15th August, one of the most auspicious days in our national calendar, when all Indians celebrate the day when our young country, but an old civilization, attained independence 68 years ago. However, this writer, along with countless other citizens of the Republic, is finding it impossible to stand up and cheer. After watching the sordid and shameful incidents near the capital’s Jantar Mantar a day earlier, on the 14th, my heart is filled with sorrow, that independent India’s freely-elected government could stoop so low as to unleash its agents of terror against its own military veterans. Veterans, who had gathered in a peaceful (and legally-sanctioned) protest for a cause that cannot possibly be more legitimate than anything in this god’s earth.
Every regime whether a democracy or a dictatorship / junta faces its moment of truth. The French ancien Régime had it with the “bread and cakes” gaffe of its Austrian-born Empress, the Russian Romanovs had it with their German-born Empress, the mad monk Rasputin and the massacre of protesting workers by the Cossacks, the British Empire faced it in Jallianwala Bagh, while South Africa’s apartheid state saw it in the Sharpeville massacre. In our shores, the UPA cabal, the immediate predecessor of the present NDA lot, had their Waterloo omens in the Ram Lila Maidan lathi-charge and the unleashing of water cannons on the Nirbhaya protestors.
The defining moment or the turning point is not necessarily measured by the number of deaths and casualties that a particular event saw ; the police forces of MMS and his cabal killed only one person in Ram Lila ground and none in the post-Nirbhaya gatherings. Jallianwala Bagh and Sharpeville saw hundreds of murders as the renaissance poet Tagore pointed out in his letter to the Viceroy renouncing his knighthood, and as Alan Paton wrote for the benefit of the architects of the criminal apartheid regime in Pretoria.
However, the 14th August 2015 incidents around Jantar Mantar that saw the khaki thugs of the Delhi Police beat up and manhandle our military veterans, even going to the extent of attempting to take off the gallantry medals of one of the warriors, will be etched in the minds and the collective psyche of the Indian people simply because of its wretchedness and perversity. What prompted this act of lunacy on the part of our new rulers in Raisina Hill will be discussed later. What is crystal clear, however, to even a political babe-in-the woods, is that there will be a very steep price to pay for this criminal folly. In an era of electronic and digital photography and storage, the images of yesterday will always continue to sear the conscience of the Republic’s citizens and haunt the babus and netas who planned and executed this outrage. Or probably not, in the latter case, since our babus and netas are easily one of the most shameless and degenerate lot in recorded history.
Mr, Modi and his cabinet, I am convinced, will rue the day when they ordered (in the worst scenario) or overlooked and condoned (in a more charitable assessment) the illegal and brutal assault by the goons of the Delhi Police on the peaceful and legal assembly of the ex-services fraternity. If more than 95% of this group voted for the NDA in the 2014 elections, it is doubtful if more than 5% will support this bunch in 2019. However, this is not just electoral folly on the part of the new government. I wish we could paraphrase Talleyrand and say that this was a crime and a blunder rolled in one. It also combined a number of other attributes, to use scrupulously correct terminology.
It is the culmination of a litany of broken commitments and promises. Admittedly, most of these were made by the previous incumbents of Raisina Hill. But the Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi put his own (and his party’s) imprimatur on OROP by promising it on a number of times in the run-up to last year’s general elections. The BJP’s official manifesto also made an unconditional commitment. An even more interestingly, the Supreme Court, too, ordered the grant of OROP, and the Union of India is now facing contempt proceedings in the apex court for not implementing its verdict.
Therefore, what we are seeing here is a triple whammy – violation of a unanimous Report of Parliament (the Koshyari Committee of 16 December 2011, which by sheer coincidence was also Victory Day), a 7 year old decision of the Supreme Court (Union of India v. SPS Vains, (2008) 9 SCC 125) and categorical / specific electoral promises made on numerous occasions. To top up its sins, a demented version of the icing on the cake, the government orders a lathi charge on veterans who are in a legal and peaceful assembly to demand their legitimate dues.
The constant refrain from the rulers is that they are working out the details. What this basically means is that the babus (the IAS, police, other central services lobbies) are churning out progressively more outlandish estimates of the cost of OROP, so that the political masters can use these fig-leaves to delay justice and equity to our soldiers. In this ghoulish ambience, we must perforce point out the IAS have already awarded themselves an exact equivalent of OROP that is named NFU or Non-Functional Upgradation in Raisina Hill’s Kafkaesque terminology. Therefore, what is sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander.
I have earlier suggested that Messrs Parrikar, Jaitley and Modi should invite specialist civilians (who are not in government) to aid and assist them in quantifying OROP. I will bet my bottom tax-paid Rupee that tens of thousand of highly-skilled citizens will volunteer their services for this noble endeavour. What is involved here is certainly not quantum physics or Bose-Einstein statistics.
In the meantime, four former services chiefs have written to the President, the constitutional Supreme Commander of the Republic’s armed forces, to point out the sheer perversity of the government’s stand and the ignominy being heaped on our veterans and even our present warriors, who will be retiring soon in the future. All the four chiefs are persons of the utmost integrity and probity – I happen to know one of them personally and the others are all vouchsafed for. A fifth former chief, who has also honoured me with his friendship, has confirmed that he would have joined the four others but could not do so, as he was out of the country. It appears that these are voices in the wilderness. Nothing has any effect on the sphinxes in power. On the 14th evening, the nation heard a former Army chief admit on TV that the day’s incidents had angered and saddened him more than anything in his 40 years of service in the Indian Army. Mind you, this General had commanded the Army during Kargil and, under his watch, numerous near-suicidal missions had been ordered that were gladly and dutifully carried out by our military.
How, then, do we summarise the disgust and the anger that we, as citizens, have when we watch the charade being enacted by our political leaders and bureaucrats ? Many of us will immediately recall the poet’s dictum of “In times of war and not before, God and the soldier we adore. But in times of peace and all things righted, God is forgotten and the soldier slighted.” Some have attributed these lines to the old imperialist Kipling, who did wield a powerful pen when it came to non-Empire matters, but this attribution is not unanimous.
But there is no doubt whatsoever of T.S. Eliot’s authorship of the following lines : “By far the greatest treason is to do the right thing for the wrong reason”. (“Murder in the Cathedral”, words assigned to Thomas Becket). However, what would be history’s verdict on those who do the wrong things for the wrong reasons?