Heroes are not pawns: Army officer’s daughter exposes pseudo nationals

Jul 18th, 2016 | Category: Articles

By Donita Angela Jose

‘I love our defence force, but I’m critical about how it functions in Kashmir.’

Just to widen this nationalism versus jingoism debate.

I’m the daughter of an Army officer and I would never let anybody undermine the agonies of an Army man who guards his nation by keeping his own body at the border! Since childhood I’ve heard endless stories of war times, of bravery, of how he survived on extremely low quantities of food in unimaginably cold weathers.

I’ve also heard of the rigours of times, and of times when war was over and only a cold memory remained, when soldiers returned home but their sleeps were scarred with splatters of blood and sounds of the cannon going off every minute.

I was too small the last time he had to report for war, but I remember not seeing my father for months together. Twenty-seven years have passed and my father still serves in the Army, and has made me believe it’s one of the toughest and most efficient institutions in the country.

Having said that, it doesn’t mean that an average citizen like me can’t discuss (anything) about the nation; for not having put my life on the frontier too. I can complain, deliberate, ridicule, praise, sympathise, empathise with any idea that’s in tune with causing no destruction to the society. To put in simple words, I can empathise with Kashmir.

I love the Army, but I’m critical about how it functions in Kashmir. To have to live in a state with constant surveillance and seeing guns at every corner is suffocating. Three weeks of struggle for Rohith Vemula at campus was enough of seeing the lathis and tear gas vans.

Imagine being born into it, being a terror suspect for existing, being checked, being enslaved to a nation that does all this and more in the name of your security. While the rest of the country protests against beef ban and censor board, Kashmir’s definition of liberty is still stuck at demanding the abolishing of AFSPA, and freedom of movement.

Is it possible to love the Army and feel the angst of Kashmiris, Manipuris, Dalits, tribals, et al?

Yes, which is why my anger directs to the state, to the government which is using Army as a pawn to reinforce its nationalism and cover up its misgovernance. It’s easy to hail the Army and forget what they were fighting for.

Is it justified when they fight poor tribals who’ve been denied rights on the forests that were a part of their existence for centuries? Is such a soldier less of a soldier for fighting his own people?

I’m amazed how the nation remembers the Army only to get a dirty pleasure in claiming its nationalism: “Look at our soldiers. Guarding our borders blah blah…” or when a natural calamity (strikes). Why didn’t anybody give some thought to them when One Rank One Pension had to be sealed by the government and our veterans went on a series of hunger strikes?

Dear jingoistic/pseudo nationals, don’t drag the Army into this dirty game. Specially you, Mr Arnab Goswami.

In tune with what Umar Khalid and what Kashmiris demand, I read this quote on Scroll.in regarding AFSPA.

Resting my case with this.

A retired Army officer once recounted: “Sometimes we behaved like militants and the militants like security forces. The state machinery was perceived as a tool of oppression and seldom seen as a guardian. AFSPA is a bad Act. But if you remove AFSPA, the Army will lose whereas if you continue with AFSPA for 25 years then India is surely losing the war.”

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