After cross-LoC raids, aptly called ‘surgical strikes’, at terrorist hide outs in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, there has been much hype and hoopla. The public euphoria, though, is well understood in the wake of Uri massacre . However, the political buzz it has created is sad and unfortunate. Murky allegations, counters and clarifications continue to cloud the national spectrum. Loose cannons on ill-conceived debates, un checked posts and cartoons on social media sites are vitiating the environment.
Having served in the Indian Army for 27 years in a combat arm with an exposure to active operational areas, the military, I can state with conviction, is least affected with such insinuations. Having accomplished the assigned job, the troops would be rearing to take up the next venture with an even enhanced professionalism. The nature of hype that the army experiences is of a different nature, quite contrary to what prevails outside.
The earliest hype that one remembers was during induction into the military academy. The first bug-bear was to pass the drill test. Only the successful cadets would get an out pass , called ‘liberty’ to visit town on Sundays. The drill test was a tough one which required perseverance and a disciplined dedication to transform a carefree, dandy and clumsy youngster into a military man. I recollect my drill instructor’s words,” Cadet, yeh battak (duck) wali chaal nahin chalegi”. The effort to respond to military command coupled with a synchronising movement of body and slick unwavering soldierly demeanour was a task. The success rate in the initial screening was a mere one percent .
The sight of a fellow cadet dressed up in smart mufti atop a bicycle off to see a movie and eating out egged the failures to put in the extra bit. Similar was the challenge to excel in the battle physical efficiency tests (BPET) , 20-km cross-country run, a mandatory boxing bout, a riding test and multifarious sports competition involved during the tough military training. On being commissioned into a tank regiment with glorious traditions of excellence was like getting into fire out of a frying pan. The ability to fire a 105-mm high velocity shell in the bulls eye was the ultimate and the euphoria to enjoy the achievement with the crew heavenly. As one progressed, the ambit of responsibility to deliver, gained prominence both in spectrum and scope, quite insulated from the humdrum of activities in the civvie street.
During OP PARAKRAM, post a terrorist attack on Parliament, we got mobilised for an impending war with Pakistan. I was in command of my regiment and the troops were rearing to go. It was January 13, 2002, and the Pakistan President addressed his nation, fuelling jingoism. We were in our battle stations . I called for a special Sainik Sammellan of my troops for a collective motivational chat as a precursor to real action. After I finished, I asked if anyone had anything in mind. Sowar Manjit Singh, a young 23-year-old tank gunner got up smartly, “ ‘Saab, mann mein ek hi baat hai’,” and after a pause, :”Ek gola aur ek Pakistani tank”. (I have a thought, another grenade, another Pakistani tank).
The scraggy, desolate desert echoed with a loud unison of “Bharat Mata Ki Jai “ and “Nishay kar apni jeet karoon”, our regimental war cry. Such is the focus of our soldiers, oblivious to irrelevant hype and hoopla. The honorable defence minister was right when he said that he gave the army an opportunity to exploit its potential. We thank the minister and wish he makes it a habit.
(The writer is a Chandigarh-based freelance contributor. Views expressed are personal)