|1965 SAMAR SEVA STAR|
A lot of angst has been directed at the decision of veterans organisations to boycott the 50th anniversary celebrations of the 1965 Indo-Pak War in protest against the delay in implementation of One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme by the Union government.
The barbs have come from expected as well as unexpected quarters. From journalists adversely commenting upon the move to fellow veterans who once wore the uniform and feel that it is improper to boycott the celebrations.
Comments such as "cutting ones nose to spite the face" and "nation first" etc have been directed towards a community which has dedicated its entire youth, if not life, towards the service of the nation and is now forced to adopt such extreme measures in support of their legitimate demand when all modes of redressing a wrong have failed.
A soldier fights for honour. He fights for not only the honour of the nation but for his own personal honour too. Something which can be difficult for a average citizen to grasp and understand. He fights for the flag, a few pieces of ribbon and for the pride of his comrades and unit. And he gives up his life and limb for the nation when the situation so demands. That is what makes him special. And that makes him deserving of a higher honour than any other calling or profession.
But those who question the motives of veterans by suggesting that they are putting their narrow interests first and foremost and the nation last must answer some questions.
Where is that pride which used to exist in an average citizen for a soldier?
What has been done to restore the respect of a soldier across the spectrum of rank?
Why has a soldier's position been allowed to degrade in comparison to the bureaucracy?
And now, after denying him status as well as equal pension and after making false promises before and after the elections, if the soldier feels cheated and betrayed after endless rounds of meeting with the Defence Minister, is he wrong? To term it as if he wants a few Rupees more at the cost of the nation is downright insulting.
Has he been left with any other option but to sit on hunger strikes, return his service medals and boycott government functions? Have the veterans not behaved with impeccable dignity and got nothing but false promises in return?
No one needs to preach to a soldier who has fought in any war or worn the uniform of his defence services on his rights and how he should get them if they are denied. He has done his bit for the nation and a tad bit more than any commentator like me will every do in his entire life. Those who have taken decision of life and death in war like situations can certainly be trusted with making the right decisions when it comes to OROP.
Patriotism sells and uber patriotism sells even more in these days of hyper nationalism.
It is all very simple.
The soldier wants his honour restored. The OROP agitation is, in many ways, a manifestation of the feeling of degradation of honour and dignity over the years.
Give the soldier back his status as first among equals that existed 50 years back.
Let that stripe on a sleeve and pips on an epaulet mean what they did 50 years back.
Then come and talk about the 50 years of the 1965 war.
And till then refer to what a soldier wrote about being under fire 100 years back.
He knew best what it means by 'nation first'.
"If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
Obscene as cancer, bitter as cud
Of vile incurable sores on innocent tongues
My friend, you will not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory
The old lie; Dulce et Decorum Est
Pro Patria Mori"
(Dulce et Decorum est Pro Patria Mori: It is sweet and honourable to die for ones country)