Till 1997, the bodies of soldiers killed in battle or in counter-insurgency operations were cremated on the battlefield or in their unit premises and the ashes conveyed to their families. Then the government took a decision to send the bodies back to their native places where the nearest armed forces unit conducted an appropriate, dignified funeral in keeping with Service traditions.
A representative of the unit accompanies the body. This brought home to our countrymen the sacrifices made by our men in uniform. However, over the years, there’s been no change in the tacky coffins in which the bodies of our martyrs are sent to their loved ones. Fabricated locally by unit carpenters using plywood and with wholly inappropriate signage, these coffins do not correlate with the dignity required to transport the bodies of our martyrs on their final journeys.
An attempt made at the time of the Kargil War to introduce aluminium caskets and body bags was given up after a scandal in their procurement. The 7th Pay Commission has recommended that the funeral allowance of `6,000 be abolished. We may see a day in the future when the escort, along with the body of a martyr killed in a counter-insurgency operation, on the LOC or in war, may present a bill for mortuary services or wood for the coffin used to the bereaved family. One shudders at the thought!
Passing of an officer and a gentleman
The veterans’ fraternity and the world lost a rare gem last month. Brigadier Jagjit Singh was the quintessential officer and gentleman. Belonging to a military family abounding in general officers, he was commissioned with the 1st JSW/NDA and 10th IMA Courses in December 1952 into 5 Rajputana Rifles. Shortly after commissioning, he took part in the little-known operations against the insurgency in Telengana, the first known instance of a successful suppression of a Communist-inspired rebellion.
Transferred to command 9th Jat in 1970, he took that unit into battle in Chhamb in 1971. Under his leadership, the battalion, along with a few other units, stood fast and prevented the determined Pakistani thrust from capturing Akhnur. Retiring in the 80s to Chandigarh’s Sector 33, he lived a quiet life of dignity.
The natural grace he brought into every facet of life endeared him to everyone. One of the most well dressed persons it’s been my privilege to meet, he will be missed by everyone who knew him. Rest in Peace, Sir.
Western Command horse show
The Army not only uses horses for functional purposes but has been the leader in promotion of equestrian sports. Western Command organised a horse show at Chandimandir last month with a large number of events. This is the culmination of the activities of the equestrian node located in the military station.
Jagruk Hindustani programme
IX Corps has started the Jagruk Hindustani programme in its area of responsibility in Jammu division to motivate and co-opt the rural youth in counter-insurgency operations. As part of team-building and imparting a positive focus to youngsters’ activities, a T-20 cricket tournament was organised in October with nearly 50 teams participating. Definitely a laudable effort in winning hearts and minds, which is already paying dividends in the form of information received and vigilant eyes and ears.
(Please write in with your narratives of war and soldiering to email@example.com or call on 093161-35343)