In the midst of all the cacophony and shrill pseudo-nationalist rhetoric that is destroying the fabric of a plural India, often in the name of the Armed Forces, 114 veterans of the Indian Armed Forces have spoken out. They have spoken out in no uncertain terms against targeted attacks on Muslims and Dalits and against the attempts to destroy the Constitution – upon which arose the new, independent India.
An Open Letter from Veterans of the Armed Forces
To: the Prime Minister of India, Chief Ministers of the States, and Lieutenant-Governors of the Union Territories.
30 July, 2017
We are a group of Veterans of the Indian Armed Forces who have spent our careers working for the security of our country. Collectively, our group holds no affiliation with any single political party, our only common commitment being to the Constitution of India.
It saddens us to write this letter, but current events in India have compelled us to register our dismay at the divisiveness that is gripping our country. We stand with the ‘Not in My Name’ campaign that mobilised thousands of citizens across the country to protest against the current climate of fear, intimidation, hate and suspicion.
The Armed Forces stand for “Unity in Diversity”. Differences in religion, language, caste, culture or any other marker of belonging have not mattered to the cohesion of the Armed Forces, and servicemen of different backgrounds have fought shoulder to shoulder in the defence of our nation, as they continue to do today. Throughout our service, a sense of openness, justice and fair play guided our actions. We are one family. Our heritage is like the multi-coloured quilt that is India, and we cherish this vibrant diversity. Continue reading Armed Forces Veterans Speak Out – ‘Act Now to Uphold the Constitution’
Guest post by UJITHRA PONNIAH
‘7th Pay Commission: Modi government’s Diwali bonanza to armed forces! Indian soldiers to get 10% arrears’, on October 13, 2016 Zee News the current government’s pet broadcaster, tried to quell the rising disquiet within sections of the armed forces with the 7th pay commission recommendations[i]. The recommendations of the 7th pay commission headed by a retired Supreme Court judge, Justice Ashok Kumar Mathur came into effect from the January 1st, 2016. The three military chiefs in an uncharacteristic move since then have written repeated letters to the government, expressing their rising unhappiness within the ranks only to be swiftly turned down. The last on the matter from the defence minister Manohar Parrikar is a promise of referring the anomalies to a higher panel, a black hole where many concerns in the past have also been lost. Along with the current serving military chiefs, 10 ex-chiefs have also written to the Prime Minister, only to be met with the selective silence that many in the country are well familiar with[ii]. So what are the military’s concerns with the current pay commission?[iii] They can be swiftly summarized around three points though the issues run deeper: an increasing disparity between the military and the civilian central government employees both in terms of pay and hike (for example a hardship allowance for an IAS officer posted in the north east is more than a soldier in Siachen); a downsizing of the disability pension in the military; and the clubbing of the military service pay (MSP) of junior commissioned officers (who rise from within the ranks of the jawans) and the jawans[iv].
Continue reading Beyond pop nationalism – How neoliberalism affects the jawan: Ujithra Ponniah
Guest Post by SANJEEV KUMAR
Seven of us in my family including me, along with 90% of the young men from my village, have tried to join the army at least once in our lives. Here I am using the term ‘army’ to include all armed forces and paramilitary forces.
Three members of my family succeeded and are now in the army along with around a hundred others from my village. More than two-thirds of them gave bribes of 1-2 lakh rupees, either by selling land or using family savings, to join the army. There are others who were cheated by dalals. Hardly any of them would claim that they joined the army to serve the nation; rather, they joined the army to bring some relief to their starving families. Most of them teased and molested girls while travelling ticketless in trains to army recruitment centres in different parts of the country. Most of them including my brother, took 7-12 lakh rupees as dowry for marriage. Hardly any one of them wants their children to be in the army in preference to other civilian jobs.
My father also tried once to join the Indian army in the early 1980s but my grandfather hid his joining letter from him because my grandfather believed farming was better for him and for the family. Whenever they quarrelled in the early 2000s, I always heard my father blaming his father for the poverty of the family, because he did not allow him to join the army. It was around the same time that I first heard of anyone giving a bribe to join the army. It was my own uncle who was barely 5 to 7 years older than me, who sold his agricultural land to pay 1 lakh rupees to a dalal as bribe through his mamaji who was also in the army. I also heard of two young boys in my village who had earlier given around 40000 rupees as bribe to join Bihar Police but lost all their money to a dishonest agent. It was courageous of my uncle to risk his money even though the news of how two other village boys were cheated was fresh in the air. He had the courage to do that because his secondary dalal was his own mamaji. He had the courage to do that also because he had no other alternatives.
Continue reading Seven of Us – The Other Side of the Armed Forces: Sanjeev Kumar
Guest post by ADITYA PRAKASH
The following is a narrative of a torture victim I gathered during my time in Kashmir as a researcher. The person interviewed was tortured by the 2nd Dogra regiment of the Indian Army.
Where is your gun?
On the night of 28th October 1991, the 2nd Dogra Regiment of the Indian Army was conducting interrogations in Palhallan. Palhallan is a large village in the Baramulla district of Jammu and Kashmir.
People suspected of having links with terrorists were interrogated. The women and men were asked to come out of their homes. The women were asked to gather at the local dargah (shrine) and the men were lined up in the village school.
A major from the 2nd Dogra handpicked Manzoor Ahmad Naikoo to step forward. Others were also short listed for interrogation. Manzoor was taken inside the school and forced to strip. He was made to sit on a chair. His hands were fastened to his back.
‘Taaki main kuch na kar sakoon’
He was completely immobilized. The army personnel then asked him for his gun. Manzoor Ahmad said he had no gun. He tried to convince them that he was a shopkeeper and never owned a gun. Continue reading Courage is silent and Stoic – Tortured in Kashmir: Aditya Prakash
Guest post by DIBYESH ANAND
Dibyesh Anand is Associate Professor at Westminster University and writes on majority-minority relations in China and India
Democracy is as much an idea, as it is a political system. An idea for which millions have given life and even more have been killed. When non-democratic or quasi-democratic states suppress people, it is a shame, but when established democracies kill their own citizens for exercising their legitimate right to protest, it is a bigger tragedy. Bigger because it is not only men and women who die, but also the hope that democracy offers a humane and representative form of government at least for its own people.
This is the hope that is dying in the world’s largest democracy as the security forces continue to kill unarmed protestors every day for the last two months in Indian controlled Kashmi. Till date, more than a hundred, mostly young men and children, have been killed by those who are supposed to be the protectors. Evidence of torture, gratuitous killings, and sheer brutal dehumanisation of ordinary people are in abundance and yet the Indian state responds by threatening action against those who reveal the evidence and against forums (such as facebook, youtube) that allow these to be made public. There is no sense of humility, regret or introspection. No promise of impartial inquiry and strict punishment for the law-enforcers who kill and maim with impunity. Not even A of an apology.
Continue reading We are all Kashmiris! Or at least should be!: Dibyesh Anand