Stateless soldier of the state

first_imgIt was indeed shocking news that “a retired Army Subedar was detained on Tuesday, May 28, 2019, to be lodged in a detention centre for illegal foreigners…… after a Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT) declared him a foreigner”. Having retired as Subedar with the Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers (EME) of the Indian Army in August 2017, the detained retired official is reported to have served in insurgency-affected areas of Jammu & Kashmir and the North-east. Also Read – A staunch allyExpectedly, the 18-year-old son of the “foreigner” soldier of the Indian Army, reacted: “How can someone who has served the country for so long be treated as a ‘foreigner’ and taken to a detention centre like this?” This author is neither the son, nor a relative, nor an acquaintance of the detained soldier; yet one today feels like asking the same question, in the same language, what the anguished son of the retired Subedar soldier of the state is asking. Reportedly, the “errant” retired soldier’s three children, too, are suffering because “they are descendants of a person who – as of now – is a ‘declared’ foreigner.” Also Read – Cuban pathosOne today wonders: a soldier comes home after serving long years in various fronts of the nation. Does he really deserve such action? Humiliation? Dishonour? Should not his former and present senior commanders look into the matter to help the authorities to find an honourable solution to/of a dishonoured colleague? Be that as it may, today this author’s thoughts go back and forth to some of the salient features which went on to shape the history, glory, tradition, and growth of the regiments of the Indian Army which sovereign India inherited from her foreign white Christian lords of London. It’s been a saga of glory and sacrifice. Duty and devotion. Loyalty and discipline. Unity of men and the sacrificing lives for their own nation as well as foreign nation; in a foreign land. Incredible? Fiction? No, not at all. All facts of history. Credible. Verifiable. The soldiers of the Indian soil were recruited, retained and retired by the British rulers in their domain; British India. Initially, (and also later) they required trained men to protect their commercial and economic assets and interests in alien land, India and beyond. And virtually, after every war between the British and Indian monarch, ruler, prince, maharaja, or the Confederacy of the Marathas was born a new Indian infantry regiment: based on caste, race, language or ethnicity. Thus, today the state of India has an army consisting of more than 20 infantry regiments: Jammu & Kashmir Light Infantry; Jammu & Kashmir Rifles; Punjab Regiment; Sikh Light Infantry; Sikh Regiment; Dogra Regiment; Kumaon Regiment; Garhwal Rifles; Rajput Regiment; Rajputana Rifles; Gorkha Rifles; Jat Regiment; Mahar Regiment; Bihar Regiment; Assam Regiment; Madras Regiment; Maratha Light Infantry; Guards; Grenadiers; Ladakh Scouts; Kumaon Scouts and Arunachal Scouts. The most notable feature of these regiments is that the cohesive and united Indian Army was born after years of fighting against their own countrymen owing to the presence of foreign Britishers who skilfully managed to command, control and communicate with the native soldiers of the east. It would, therefore, might not be incorrect to suggest that it was the British self-interest in the east of the Suez that gave birth to the splendid Indian Army as we see today in its present shape, size, form and action. Thus, despite mental reservation, the soldiers of India were deployed across the continent. They were taken by the British to China to loot the summer palace of the Chinese monarch in 1860. The story of the First and the Second World War pertaining to bravery, valour, and sacrifice of Indian soldiers in Europe, North Africa, Mesopotamia, South-east Asia, Singapore, Malaysia, and Burma are too well known to be repeated. In a way, therefore, although the evolution of the history of the Indian Army may or might not have been to the liking of some public figures of India, the fact nevertheless remains that the professional and apolitical soldiers and their superiors are the biggest assets to sovereign India’s polity, economy and society. It’s an astonishing story which continues to astonish every Indian every day. A soldier, across India, still inspires the desired level of confidence. In an urban as well rural area. I have seen it; I still see it. Seeing is believing. Coming back to the story of the detained ex-soldier of the state army of India, one needs to remember that every soldier, serving or retired, is a member of the “extended family” of the army of India. And, it would be a great tragedy if the top brass of the forces fails to appreciate this point. If a soldier is detained for being a “foreigner” after 30 years of service to the state, then a question could crop up in future too. What about the Gorkha soldiers who are recruited from interior Nepal? No doubt the Gorkha Regiment stands on a solid foundation of/on Anglo-Indo-Nepal history, tradition, custom and law. Yet in an era of uncertainty, all round turmoil and population growth across South Asia, and with China and Pakistan looming large as a grave external security threat, India has to try to reduce the problems pertaining to internal issues first. There are too many legacy issues. There are growing non-legacy issues too. They need resolution through patience, perseverance and peaceful overtures. Not through prism of “black and white.” In India, grey areas far outstrip the “black and white” issues owing to several lingering fault lines. Before ending, let it be clarified that it gave this author no pleasure to write the piece. The turmoil pertaining to the present case is taking place at a highly vulnerable and volatile area notwithstanding the natural beauty of the terrain, the charm and hospitality, simplicity and warmth of the people thereof. Rightly or wrongly, the east and north-east traditionally have been in the media headlines for all wrong reasons. Delhi being, “far off”, must be seen to come closer to the area rather than the east and north-east going to the capital. The worst of the “foreign” problems, originating from across the borders of China and erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) has created enormous political turmoil. But India has to remember that partition of India was not the making of the people of the east and north-east but the politicians like Gandhi, Jinnah and Nehru. Consequently, a dangerous internal threat today has cropped up for India. The human problem cannot be dealt with in an inhuman way. The bloodshed of 1947 must not be forgotten. Else it’s a sure way for China and Pakistan. (Abhijit Bhattacharyya is an alumnus of National Defence College and author of China in India. The views expressed are strictly personal)last_img read more