2016 will be remembered as a year in which India lost its many bravehearts to a demon called ‘terrorism’, a year when we sent fit, fine, loyal and well- trained soldiers to Kashmir and saw them come back draped in the Indian tri-colour, in coffins. We received them in a sombre mood, with tears in our eyes and our shoulders burdened with the sacrifice of yet another life. How can we console their families? After the initial brave do, to whom will the children of these martyrs turn when they are faced with problems? The martyrs will be missed by their families on birthdays , festivals and all occasions. The ailing, old parents will have to cover the last phase of their journey bravely, by being a support to their families. The wives of these martyrs will have to take up the role of the provider as well as the nurturer. Frail shoulders will learn to ooze strength.
A visit to War Memorial in Badami Bagh Cantonment in Srinagar, this year in June, left me numb as such thoughts rushed into my mind. I was visibly upset seeing the scores of names of soldiers who laid their lives for the country. What left me in anguish, besides these names, were the pillars which stood in eerie silence, awaiting further names. The enemy will not halt and the army knows it will lose many more of its gallant soldiers to senseless violence. As I stood there, feeling very small, my accomplishments fading into oblivion in the shadow of those martyrs, I, as an Indian, felt angry. I was angry at God, and angry at the enemy. But my ire was aimed at all those petty politicians with vested interests who deny a soldier a bullet-proof jacket , night-vision glasses and all the other equipment necessary to fight the enemy within and outside the boundaries. Fie on all those who fill up their coffers instead of buying life-saving gear for those who protect us. I care two hoots for the heartless bureaucrat who sits in the comfort of his office and makes rules for a soldier standing in knee- deep snow in Siachin glacier.
The army honours its brave, in life and in death. They have maintained the War Memorial with the choicest of flowers. I saw soldiers watering the plants, the blooms with great love. There was greenery all around and there was an air of positivity. I tried to catch it, but was lost ruing the loss of lives. I looked closely, trying to read names. What I read, left me aghast. There were days mentioned when we lost not one, but numerous soldiers either in an attack or an ambush. And this occurred not once but was a repeated phenomenon. I could read no more. Unfortunately, there will be many more names added this year. Too many, too soon.
I stepped back. Each step lifted with reverence. I stood imagining the soldiers looking down at us and asking if we were doing the best for the nation. And I had no answer, rather I feared to answer. I promised there and then to give my best to my country, a small tribute to these fallen soldiers. I made a solemn promise to respect every soldier and his family, whenever I came across one, not out of pity but to show my solidarity with the defence forces, be it the army, navy, airforce or the para-military troops. They deserve this and much more.
(The writer teaches political science at DAV College, Chandigarh. Views expressed are personal)