Today marks the 90th anniversary of the end of World War I. From Australia to America, countries mark the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th minute with a minute of silence to remember the fallen of the Great War and the wars that came after it. Why is there nothing in India to mark the soldiers who gave their lives during these wars and the other wars that were fought? The Indian Army had 1.3 million men serving around Europe and the rest of the world in World War I and close to 2.5 million men in World War II making it the largest all volunteer force in history. We lost 130, 000 men in the two wars combined. That is a rough estimate. So how come when the world remembers their fallen, we maintain silence.
The silence for me is extremely uncomfortable. There are so many voices that seek to fill that void, so many noises that seek to give meaning to the silence. Do we as a nation do not care? Do we not wish to be reminded of the people who no longer are here? Are we so intent on erasing everything that represents the old that we are willing to turn away from the very people who made this nation a possibility? Are we so caught up in fighting the petty wars of today, that we could not afford a day to remember the people who gave the lives for a higher purpose? Or is patriotism a “uncool” factor that people talking about it are seen as weird?
A country that does not remember the fallen also does very little for the ones surviving. The Indian Government does not to my knowledge have a veteran’s division. A palce where veteran’s from the armed forces can expect some kind of aid, support and care. Our collective ignorance is abominable in light of the fact that the armed services in India has always been a volunteer force and there has never been a draft or compulsory recruitment. To a person who joins the army for the sake of his/her country the way we repay them is with a silence on the one day when they should be remembered. For all the national holidays, religious holidays, government holidays we couldn’t make time to remember them one day. The younger generation today remember only the Kargil War. Truth is Indian forces are stationed in more places than just Kargil. There needs to be a movement towards the improvement of veteran affairs, helping the wounded and the disabled and it should be done with the full knowledge of the public, just so we know that the people who are willing to give their lives are not because of a government’s ignorance forced to give it in vain. It needs to be done, not just for us to remember the ones who have fallen but also for the ones who have fought, and bear the scars of the battlefields, for the ones who are tormented in their dreams and are seeking help, for the ones who despair under the stress and for the ones who are willing to still go out there and fight.