Sunday, April 4, 2010

Mera Bharat Mahan

Recently I came across this article and would like to share it with my dear readers. It is written by a high ranking officer and hits the bull's eye.

What makes nations great?

Major General Mrinal Suman (Indian Army), AVSM, VSM, PhD

As India celebrates 62 years of Independence, one wonders as to what makes nations great. Why is the US an undisputed world power? Why has Britain remained undefeated for centuries? Why has India succumbed to foreign rule so often? Why is India still struggling with internal dissensions and fissiparous forces? What does India lack?

A chance meeting with a British army veteran in a train from Edinburgh to London proved highly revealing. According to him the secret of British success lies in the public support and respect extended to the soldiers. “Soldiers’ loyalty to the nation and readiness for the supreme sacrifice are driven less by material considerations and more by an overwhelming urge to earn love and respect of their countrymen. A grateful nation’s recognition of their contribution to national security acts as the strongest motivator,” he declared.

“Britain never forgets its war heroes. Every major landmark in London is named after distinguished soldiers and not politicians,” he declared with visible pride. To prove his point further, he recalled, “Before World War II, it was not uncommon to see placards hanging outside some restaurants in Paris which read ‘Dogs, lackeys and soldiers not allowed’. On the other hand, even pregnant women used to get up and offer seats to soldiers in London buses. When the war broke out, France capitulated in no time while Britain remained undefeated.”

In an article written two days before the swearing-in of Barack Obama, his wife Michelle devoted 515 out of 863 words to the soldiers and their families. “So as I watch Barack take that oath, I'll be thinking especially about those members of our American family who stand guard across the world and the loved ones who await their safe return.…. My husband and I are deeply grateful for the sacrifices that these families make to protect all American families. And we join them - today and every day - in praying for their loved ones and their safety. They don't ask a lot in return, just a Washington that understands the challenges they face as part of their extraordinary commitment to our country…My husband understands that commitment, and he will ensure America lives up to its end,” she wrote.

“On Tuesday night, my husband and I will tuck in our daughters like we always do. Their bedrooms will be different, their home unfamiliar. But they will drift off to sleep protected by that same sacrifice that has kept all of our families safe and safeguarded our freedom for generations -- the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform and their families….For that, we could not be more grateful - or more proud,” she added.

Now let us compare the above with the state of affairs in India. Can anyone recall a similar ex-pression of sentiments by a national figure? Except for perfunctory platitudes on Independence Day, the Government has singularly failed to show compassion for the soldiers or tried to redress their genuine grievances. Apathetic political leadership and bureaucracy have made no attempt to understand the intensity of sense of hurt of the soldiers at their continued neglect and deliberate degradation.

Despite repeated representations, India still does not have a war memorial in the capital to honour independent India’s martyrs. India wants to ape the West in all sundry aspects but not in matters that affect the well-being and morale of the armed forces. The Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington in Washington, Arc de Triomphe in Paris and the Cenotaph in London are admired by all Indian visitors. Yet, the absence of a suitable war memorial in New Delhi does not appear odd to them. Surprisingly, it does not even hurt the conscience of the nation. There is no other country that can be so apathetic to the memory of thousands of soldiers who have laid down their lives for its security.

Urban Development Ministry is more concerned with the vestiges of the British rule and opposes war memorial near India Gate in the name of preserving heritage. India Gate was built in the memory of soldiers who died in World War I during the British rule. India has fought five wars since Independence and over 40,000 soldiers have made the supreme sacrifice. Opposition to a war memorial on frivolous grounds is an affront to the memory of martyrs and displays shameless insensitivity to the feelings of those who have lost their family members. But then, no political leader or bureaucrat can be faulted for their inability to appreciate these issues as they never send their progeny to the military.

Look at the treatment meted out to India’s tallest military leader Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, the architect of India’s greatest victory ever. It took the Government decades to determine and release his dues. India has not found him worthy of its highest national honour ‘Bharat Ratna’. No political leader thought it necessary to attend his funeral. In Britain and the US, heads of the State with full national leadership would have made it a point to be present to pay a nation’s grateful respects.

Nelson’s Column at Trafalgar Square occupies the pride of place in London. London boasts of numerous statues of military heroes. No statues of political leaders are seen in the developed countries. India, on the contrary, has not found it necessary to honour Field Marshal Manekshaw’s memory whereas statues of political leaders (even of suspect credentials) dot New Delhi.

It will not be out of place here to recall the speech of President Obama at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention at the Phoenix Convention Center on 17 August 2009. He said, “You have fulfilled your responsibilities. And now a grateful nation must fulfill ours. Whether you've left the service in 2009 or 1949, we will fulfill our responsibility to deliver the benefits and care that you earned.” He termed America's commitment to its veterans as sacred bonds and a sacred trust Americans are honour bound to uphold.

“You have done your duty - to your fallen comrades, to your communities, to your country. You have always fulfilled your responsibilities to America. And so long as I am President of the United States, America will always fulfill its responsibilities to you”, he declared.

Contrast the above pledge and assurance with the treatment meted out to the ex-servicemen in India. It is apathetic to say the least. In the recent past, India was witness to the most unfortunate sight of numerous military veterans returning their medals to the President to register their protest against Government’s indifference to their pleas. Medals earned during active service are the proudest possession of soldiers and their being driven to surrender them should have made the Government sit up and take note. But true to its wont, it remained totally unconcerned and unmoved. Not a single Government leader or official has considered it necessary to talk to the protesting veterans to resolve the issues. This episode will certainly go down as a dark chapter in the history of Independent India.

India won the Kargil War of 1999 at a huge cost – 527 officers and soldiers sacrificed their lives while over 1000 sustained battle injuries, many getting maimed for ever. Yet, a senior Congress leader Mr Rashid Alvi had the impudence to state that commemoration was not warranted as the war took place due to an intelligence failure of the BJP Government. Every Indian soldier, both serving and retired, was aghast at the brazenness of the logic.

A notion has been deliberately perpetuated that the military must be kept under control through the bureaucracy lest it acquires political ambitions. Examples of Pakistan and Bangla Desh are quoted to implant fear of military take over in the minds of gullible and ignorant political leadership. A systematic and well planned strategy has been orchestrated to downgrade military’s standing. Sixth Central Pay Commission was the latest master stroke.

Although public at large still holds the military in high esteem, a deliberate media campaign is being orchestrated by some elements with vested interests to show the military in poor light. Instead of appreciating the military for initiating prompt disciplinary action against defaulters – handful acts of misdemeanor and indiscretion in a 1.3 million strong organisation – such cases are sensationalised to paint a negative picture of the services.

Historically, India does not have a culture of valuing its military. That is the reason that every invader succeeded in defeating and enslaving the sub-continent. If India survives today despite inept political leadership and the self-serving bureaucracy, it is only due to the unquestioned loyalty of the military and enormous sacrifices made by the soldiers.

Denigration of military always proves fatal in the long run. Any country that discredits the status of its soldiers loses moral right to expect them to die for its security. Great nations are distinguished by the esteem in which they hold their military. No nation that stubbornly declines to honour the martyrs, respect the soldiers and care for the veterans can ever aspire to be counted amongst the great nations, slogans like ‘Mera Bharat Mahan’ not withstanding. 


  1. Strange Meeting by Wilfred Owen 1918.

    [ 1 ]
    It seemed that out of the battle I escaped
    Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
    Through granites which titanic wars had groined.
    Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,
    Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
    Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
    With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
    Lifting distressful hands as if to bless.
    And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall;
    With a thousand fears that vision's face was grained;
    Yet no blood reached there from the upper ground,
    And no guns thumped, or down the flues made moan.
    "Strange friend," I said, "Here is no cause to mourn."
    "None," said the other, "Save the undone years,
    The hopelessness. Whatever hope is yours,
    Was my life also; I went hunting wild
    After the wildest beauty in the world,
    Which lies not calm in eyes, or braided hair,
    But mocks the steady running of the hour,
    And if it grieves, grieves richlier than here.
    For by my glee might many men have laughed,
    And of my weeping something has been left,
    Which must die now. I mean the truth untold,
    The pity of war, the pity war distilled.
    Now men will go content with what we spoiled.
    Or, discontent, boil bloody, and be spilled.
    They will be swift with swiftness of the tigress,
    None will break ranks, though nations trek from progress.
    Courage was mine, and I had mystery;
    Wisdom was mine, and I had mastery;
    To miss the march of this retreating world
    Into vain citadels that are not walled.
    Then, when much blood had clogged their chariot-wheels
    I would go up and wash them from sweet wells,
    Even with truths that lie too deep for taint.
    I would have poured my spirit without stint
    But not through wounds; not on the cess of war.
    Foreheads of men have bled where no wounds were.
    I am the enemy you killed, my friend.

    [ 2 ]
    I knew you in this dark; for so you frowned
    Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.
    I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.
    Let us sleep now . . ."

    War or glorifying war is NOT the answer.

  2. @Vishal
    good share!
    thanx a lot!
    was a very good article!

  3. the exact reason why the britishors are considered as one of the best & the most matured ppl , all over the world !

    thnx a lot for such a nice share..
    but a country where , Sania-shoaib can create a gimmick & ppl are too interested to discuss tht , theres no hope ...

    keep it up !

  4. Indian Army has its own tradition. It was honed during the British time, when the so-called "Native Infantry" was incorporated in the British Army. Yet, the "Red Eagles". the 4th Indian Infantry Division under Gen. Messervey defeated Field Marshal Rommel's German Army in North Africa. I had the honor to see FM Rommel's caravan captured by the Red Eagles when I was posted in Ambala Cantonment. However, the greatest pity is, we name the roads in New Delhi as "Aurangzeb Road" instead of Cariappa Road after the first Indian Commander in Chief. The biggest shame is, not a single road in Gujarat is named after the first Chief of Army Staff, who was a Gujarati - Genral Maharaj Shri Rajendrasinhji of Jamnagar.

    That is the difference between Britain and India! Politicians take precedence over soldiers who save the nation from external aggression.

    Well done, Vishal, for highlighting the sacrifices of our soldiers.

  5. can't find words... what to say & what not... I can't understand 1 basic thing... y people of India have this kinda heart/mind/eyes that they can't see the real heroes of nation & go after Page 3 stars

  6. આપના બ્લોગને ગુજરાતી બ્લોગ્પીડિયા બ્લોગ એગ્રીગેટર માં સામેલ કર્યો છે મુલાકાત લેશો

    આપને ગરવા ગુજરાતીઓનું નેટજગત ગ્રુપમાં જોડાવા આમંત્રણ છે .મુલાકાત લેશો

  7. totally agreed with the entire article, i wish that as many people may read it , understand it and above all act upon it!