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jaipur, rajasthan, India
retired Army Colonel

Sunday, July 3, 2016

A Cindrela in Waiting..

My 85 year old father once narrated me a small anecdote. While studying for an History exams in high school, he had asked his older brother “ Bhaisab, how come it's only Mughals that win all the battles and no Hindu King ever?  To this his older brother replied “You will learn in later chapters that only Angrez(British) are winning all the battles thereafter.”
This made me curious to dig more into the history and draw my own conclusions. My father and his older brother, both were right. Paradoxically, the Armies of Mughals as well as British were constituted mainly of native Indians though, the wars got identified by the Kings who fought them. I couldn't avoid observing that valour of Indian soldiers and officers had been always exemplary; and despite this we lost to every raider / invader and were enslaved for 1000 years. It is a question I tried searching an answer for.
 My first deduction was that there existed a serious deficiency in our polity which threw up sordid rulers of a low political acumen, incapable of forging stronger alliances and build a mightful nation. Probably, the folly goes on till today with no change.
Secondly, the Kings maintained their Armies necessarily to quell internal rebellions rather to thwart an external aggression. The soldiers were seen more as kingsmen rather protectors of people and their nation. The Army lacked its nationalist character from its origin. The genesis of Indian Armed Forces has another typicality which has been aptly observed by General JN Choudhury, former COAS while delivering Lecture in Cambridge Trust series. He recalls, I quote “that the Indian armed forces as constituted today originated from the locally recruited watchmen employed by the East India Company to guard their trading sheds and settlements. However, when the directors of ‘John Company’ changed their priorities from enlarging their trade to increasing the size of their trading territory, these watchmen grew in number and quickly became an army. As the scope of military operations began to expand, into this army were incorporated the military forces of those Princes who threw in their lot with the British. Take my own regiment, the 16th Light Cavalry, for example. The     brief history given in the Indian Army List states: ‘Date of raising unknown. Formed from details of   the Nawab of Arcot’s Bodyguard in 1784’.” unquote.

Indian Military slowly got cast into a colonial Army as event unfolded. Instead of, for own freedom and independence, it fought and won wars for our masters. The character of Indian Military was thus shaped by the purpose and intent of its rulers, keeping it nationally and politically colourless.

Going back into prehistoric times, the religious discourses, philosophical dictums and righteousness preachings occupy an overbearing space in our much revered epics, the Mahabharata and Ramayana. It leaves military valour, strategy, tactics and art of warfare at the margins. On the contrary, the Greek epics like Iliad highlighted more upon Military values, valour and bravery. The Armies, therein, were  formed by the best men of the country who had an ability to defend people’s freedom and liberty, even at the cost life. Soldiers were thus seen in country as elite, saviours and Godly. That encouraged, among people a culture to respect and envy Military traditions and ethos. War and valour got romanticised and drew lot of glamour in Western World. Till the British came we never had experienced this among our common men.
Casteism, in India had been another evil which kept military a domain of few privileged and blessed ones. It added to an already existing disconnect, that Military had with common men.

Independent India had on her hands a Queen’s Colonial Army laced with British traditions and Brown Saheb culture. At the same time it was a reckonable force, seasoned through Frontier insurgencies, and two world wars. Since, it had served  the British Crown for two hundred years, our   political leadership, drawn from Independence movement, doubted the loyalties of Military and    would not believe that these can change instantly. Till few days back Military officers would look  down  upon the topi &  dhoti walas and chased them out with their mounts and batons. Indian Army had some very tall leaders and battle hardened distinguished officers who overshadowed both the political class and civil bureaucracy. Field Marshal Cariappa, General Thimayya, Rajendra Singhji, SD Verma, Nathu Singh ji, to name only few. The envy and insecurity it generated among bureaucracy were to guide future civil military relations in independent India. A bad note to begin with. No wonder Nehru said “Scrap the Army”. Blatantly, it also reflected Nehru’s paranoia about Military Coup and lack of his strategic vision and statesmanship. In fact it sums up the perineal dislike the Indian polity has in its Military and vice versa.
Flaws in Nehru’s leadership have been brought out best by Madhav Godbole in his book ‘The God Who Failed’. When it's almost fashion these days, in a new Indian political era, to loudly criticise and castricate Nehru, astonishingly no word comes out on his ill treatment of Armed Forces, not even by Godbole. Is it a testimony to the disconnect and insensitivity the nation has towards its Military or its connivance with the imprudence?
We do witness cricket kind of hoopla during war, calamities and anniversaries with Armed Forces but that's veneer of our patriotism and skin deep.
Our very fine Armed Forces, despite their proven unflinching loyalty, competence and dedication to our countrymen, time and again, for some very strange reasons as fathomed above, have been denied their due space in national affairs. Are we going to carry on with the follies and deficiency of our history or shall learn from it? When we were just rejoicing the dawn of a new political era on Indian horizon, the sky got overcast again.

Will our Cindrela get her Prince Charming ?

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