Sunday, July 26, 2009

Kargil - the memory remains, and a hope lingers... 10 years down

So much has happened and there is so much to say. Today marks 10 years since the Kargil war. This was the first 'Indo-Pak' war I saw. Till then stories of the Indo-pak war, for me, were just legends. And here was an honor war being fought, against the colluded militants and Pak Army on Indian soil - at several thousand feet above sea level, in inaccessibly cold and icy mountain ranges. At that time, the war was being fought in the Himalayas, but we were watching it unfold in our living rooms. The blood of every Indian boiled, to see a soldier slain. That too soon after a very happy happy visit by the then Pak premier Musharraf to India. The betrayal and treachery seemed blatant. But all we could do was watch. But somewhere deep inside, most Indians felt that we would eventually win. Somehow or the other, the Satyameva Jayate concept kinda kept ringing out. And win we did! I remember the celebrations that rang out near where I lived when Tiger Hill was captured. I remember the sudden patriotic fervor that bubbled within us.

I also remember the debates that rang out in school about the whole war aspect. There was the question on whether India should have crossed the LoC while fighting the insurgents and nipping the weed in the bud and so on. At the time, almost all of us vociferously opposed the way India conducted herself in the war. Young blood spoke out, when we said that India should have crossed the LoC. Our reasoning was highly Keynesian! Extraordinary times can call for extraordinary measures. But then someone once told me, that everyone is a revolutionary sometime in life. And so were we.

Today on the 10th anniversary of Operation Vijay, we had around thirty of the finest officers of the Indian Army, Navy and Airforce, in a delegation led by the Commandant of the College of Defense Management (CDM), Rear Admiral Batra VSM along with Lt.General Aiyyengar, PVSM, AVSM, VSM, an expert in defence strategy visit us on campus and they spoke about the Kargil war, the sterling leadership shown by every military person on the front and so on. Some things in the talk really stayed on in my mind.

For instance, he mentioned that India's stance of not crossing the LoC actually elevated her in terms of ethics in the eyes of the world. Our childhood revolutionary stance immediately sprang into mind. He then spoke of the brave and fearless officers on the front, who led by example taking a bullet in the chest while trying to protect their teams. It sounds very nice to hear these stories. But think of the deceased soldier's parents, relatives and friends, who perhaps squirm with grief each time they hear a mention of these valorous acts. Think of the number of houses and families that have been razed to the ground thanks to the concept of war. Think of the gross frivolity of war in itself. Think of the platoon leaders, the squadron leaders, the Air Chief Marshall, and everyone at the higher echelons who each day had to hear reports of casualties. The very people they knew and trained, and interacted with, were now part of a statistic - a death toll, another brave individual who had given the supreme sacrifice.

Which then brings me to talk about the new face of war these days. And that evokes images of 26/11 in Mumbai, (another 26, albeit a sad memory here). And then again, images of the commandos swinging into action to release hostages, fight the deranged terrorists springs to mind. Another whole bunch of lives lost. Another set of young India was being decimated in yet another war which serves no purpose. While drawing parallels, a thought struck my mind. After Kargil, the powers-that-be realized the intel was not strong, they did not get wind of the imminent attack; they also realized their gross unpreparedness for a war of that scale in such terrible terrain. But then again, when Mumbai lost Karkare, Kamte and Salaskar, there were talks of unpreparedness again. So, why did we not learn anything in 10 years?

One thing we must accept is the awe that the armed forces continue to inspire. They are perfectly disciplined, and the sheer nature of the people in the armed forces, their enthusiasm, dedication, ensures that the people of the nation can be at peace, rest assured that the country is in safe hands. I remember the feeling of reassurance when the commandos swooped into action in Mumbai during 26/11. But how can we respect these heroes for the selfless service they render to the civilian Indian population? The brave soldiers and policemen do not deserve just a posthumous memorial service and a citation, or a decoration. What we can do is to try to prevent these brave young Indians from having to perform the supreme sacrifice. That is when we would do our fallen heroes justice. So, Kargil - the memory remains, and the hope for a war-less, peaceful tomorrow lingers....

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