A close friend of mine just returned from Bharat, where he spoke to a Jawan of the Jat regiment who had just returned from a posting in Kupwara, Kashmir. The jawan was on his vacation. It is very important for us who do not spend any time at the border to listen to these heroes. The salient points of the conversation were:
- Morale is a problem at the border (due to reasons below).
- The daily life is very hard, very dangerous. Not only is there firing from small arms, but also shelling that happens frequently, taking a high toll on nerves and morale.
- The local populace in Kashmir is very hostile to our jawans; this makes them feel like they are in a foreign land. “Wahan hamara koi bhi nahin” is what the jawan said.
- When jawans return their weapons to go on vacation or on break, the local populace chases their military buses/trucks and pelts stones at them. This is when they are weapon-less, and defense-less. Furthermore, they are not in a state of alert, since they are trying to loosen up to go on their breaks and vacations.
- Casualty rates are very high, and this makes our jawans fear for their safety during extended deployments.
- There is no confidence in the jawans that, should something bad happen, the government will take care of their next of kin and families.
We need to help our jawans on the border. Here are some things we can do.
- Do not speak against our army. It has become very fashionable among a certain segment of our population to prove their “human rights credentials”, at the cost of the army. The army itself is very self-aware, and has processes in place to deal with violations should they be committed. It hurts their morale when a section of our media constantly harangues them when their job is so incredibly hard.
- Given the high state of tension and turmoil in Kashmir today, extended deployments take a high toll. We need better facilities for our jawans in Kashmir. We also should start a discussion on pay increases for deployments in such areas. It is not fair to expect our jawans to put up with such high stress levels for the country for extended periods of time.
- Show support to our jawans. Do it in your own small way. If you know jawans from your area, make sure they are aware of how much their sacrifice means to you. Have school children write letters to them. Think of other ways to say “Thank you!”
- We have so-called “leaders” in our country who say things like “the army will take women and rape them” etc. on national TV. We must all raise our voices in unison against such “army-baiting” for political mileage. In no other country can politicians get away with bad-mouthing the military in this way.
- We need institutionalized support for army veterans, especially those who are casualties. I had met an elderly gentleman here in California recently—he took 2 tours of duty to Vietnam (in 1967 and 68). He told me very happily “the government takes good care of me, because I was shot at in Vietnam.” Sadly, even if our jawan is killed in action, it seems the same cannot be said for the support his family receives from the Government of Bharat.
- We need to push our politicians and bureaucrats to expedite defense procurement for things like body armor, small weapons, thermal imaging and other electronic equipment that will improve the safety of jawans and secure their camps. Indigenous manufacture for such items has to be boosted by involving private sector, giving more autonomy & setting accountability for DRDO, and cutting down on red tape. Things did improve under the stewardship of Manohar Parrikar, but we have a long way to go yet. Appointing a dedicated Defense Minister to replace the incumbent who handles finance and corporate law as well, is a no-brainer.
Awareness of an issue is always the first step, and awareness is what a forum like Hindu Post can bring about.
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