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Tag Archives: Marching Feet
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.
One against a million. That is the story of how the Military Intelligence sent out their best troops, their best trackers, their best resources to track down one journalist when he reported on the cyclone Nargis. It is interesting to see the lengths that a government can go to protect its “image” when more than quarter of its population is dead, floating around in pools of tidal water, starving, living on the streets and sitting on a mountain of risk of contracting diseases. Interesting is an understatement, it is fascinating.
China is no better, it has almost the same restrictions in place after the 7.9. the difference is they were able to cope at some level without outside aid in dealing with the aftermath. The military has been efficient, and quick and the response timely. With stories of hoarding of aid by the military in Burma and the absolute neglect of people in many places and the threat of another cyclone, what should the world be doing?
The UN passed a resolution called the Responsibility to protectdoctrine. Under the doctrine, if a state fails to protect its citizens, the international community can be authorized after a vote in the security council to intervene in the state to prevent and or control humanitarian disasters. The doctrine gained importance after Kosovo, Sudan and many other instances when the state was absolutely incapacitated and/or lackadaisical about the protection measures that every citizen was legally allowed. The debate now is: Should the security council vote to allow a military intervened humanitarian rescue mission in Burma?
It is not an easy descicion. There are 400,000 burmese troops on ground with whom the UN might have to enter into combat to distribute aid. The military Junta in power is unpredicatable and the consequences of such an action might escalate into more than just an aid distribution. As neighbours, India, China and the rest of the Asian subcontinent have a lot to risk. The other solution is to get China and India to talk or intervene and Enable the distribution of aid that is sitting around Burma right now. The aid is not being distributed more out of fear of persecution than anything else.
I guess what is admirable in this situation is the risk that journalists and aid workers take. The situation they find themselves in is not a very comforting one. Risk being exposed, deported, killed and or ‘disappear’ from the face of the earth. It should be understood that this is no tehelka. These are grim situations where the need to inform weighs more than the need to expose. The reporters on ground are more interested in showing the plight of a million people and the effect that a repressive regime can have than putting the focus on the regime itself. It is a thin line and a very subtle difference and yet lives are on the line just so we can get 24 hr news sitting in the comforts of our chair.
I just pray that the ones who have died, the ones who are dying and the ones who live carrying these gruesome images can all be in peace someday.