By K.N. Pandita
Two-day seminar, organized the other day by the 16 Corps on “Changing Concept of Human Rights”, opened only a small window on connectivity between human rights for all and operational commitment of our armed forces. Army’s successful operations in the North East and the Punjab to curb insurgency sensitized civil society to aspects of protection of human rights in conflict situations. But fighting externally abetted terrorism and separatism in Kashmir unfolded some new dimensions of recognizing human rights in a situation in which the population is made a shield behind which subversion grows up and from which logistical support is sought through acts of intimidation.
Comparing situations in other parts of the world where population becomes the centre of gravity for state combating insurgents and terrorists, we find that the Indian Army has a glorious record superseding all other instances in using minimum force with maximum security to civilian population. This has been a litmus test for our Army from which it emerged successful adding glory to its enviable record of patriotism. Indian Army is not only the most disciplined army in the world which functions strictly according to the desk book rules of conduct in times of peace and war but has also set forth example of combating the adversary without hatred and without rancor. As professionals, few armies in the world can be its compeer. Drawn from a variegated mass of creeds, languages, ethnicity, and cultures, Indian Army is the finest example of a heterogeneous crowd welded into a homogenous unit. Of all the institutions that we have in this vast country, the three wings of armed forces and paramilitaries stand out as the shining example of secular India. Steeped in the historicity of Indian civilization, our army has kept alive the enviable moral and ethical code set forth by our mythological and historical celebrities. They derive inspiration from the teachings of divine books of all religions and imbibe from these the spirit of sacrifice before self.
Unfortunately, in the wake of degradation of political culture and disregard for moral and ethical values, and above all inability of sections of political class to comprehend the heights to which this vast country has the potential to reach, the army is dragged to unwanted and unnecessary controversy like violation of human rights. The truth is that the army is not only protecting human rights of others by making sacrifices of highest order but is also committed to telling the population what their rights are for which the jawans lay down their precious lives. Because the Indian army has been trained and brought up in pervasive environs of humanitarian culture, it has been given the sobriquet of “holy cow”. We need not recount the great feats of gallantry that have crowned the Indian armed forces in the wars of 1961, 1972 and 1998-9, but we shall recount Army’s admirable act of meting out humanistic treatment to nearly hundred thousand prisoners of war in Indo-Pak war of 1972.
Knowing that the Indian Army was invincible not only in combat on the battlefield but more importantly on the front of Army’s nationalistic and patriotic predilection, Pakistan tried many gimmicks to erode its sociability and draw a wedge between it and the civil society. It unleashed disinformation campaign in Kashmir labeling army as perpetrator of human rights violations; it tried to manipulate vulnerable sections of local media; it influenced some NGOs dismally half-baked in the jurisprudence of humanitarian law, and it adopted methods of instigating mass hysterics. Anti-national elements with vested interests fall easy prey to the gimmicks of the adversary, and foreign NGOs were waiting in the wings to fish in disturbed waters. Indian Army, true to the code of conduct and adherent to the established norms of discipline, did not venture to vigorously repudiate the canard spread against it. Not only that, it even did not give due publicity to its “sadhbhavna” mission aimed at socializing with the civilian population and alleviating some of their local problems. That is why a strong plea was made in the seminar on human rights that army should revise its liaisoning strategy with the media because people ought to be familiar with its humanitarian activities.
As corruption and graft have held this nation a hostage, and as moral and ethical turpitude and depravity have made inroads into our social institutions and political culture, the army stands out as the last bastion of redemption for the country and the state, the only institution that has stubbornly withstood the onslaught of these grievous social evil. Let us hail this institution as the truest representative of what India means to us.