Call it a moment of self-realisation or call it a case of better sense having prevailed, but the Indian Army, one of India’s most glorious institutions with a largely exemplary track record, has for the first time admitted to having killed two youth accidentally in Jammu and Kashmir’s Budgam district earlier in the week. Calling it violation of rules of engagement, the Army has said that it would initiate and complete the enquiry within 10 days and that the guilty will be punished.
The defence ministry also subsequently offered compensations of Rs 10 lakh and Rs 5 lakh to the kin of the deceased and the injured respectively. Nobody can deny that the issue of the Indian Army’s excesses hasn’t resounded in the annals of power ever. The Army, in spite of all its glorification has certainly been involved in murky business and that reverberates not only from the staged encounters it has been a party to but also to charges of rape, extortion and the numerous corruption cases that have been filed against it.
The basic premise on which the armed forces are raised anywhere in the world is to protect the citizens of that country from any kind of foreign aggression, any type of within the border extremism and helping the citizens rush to safety in times of natural and man-made catastrophes too. The Indian Army prides itself on ideals which are hard to find by in the present times. Often examples of the defence force are cited as an epitome for the youth to follow. In fact the youth often also get exhorted by themselves to enlist for national duty in times of extreme exigencies.
When the Indian Army is such an embodiment of humanitarian qualities where do its officers get sanctions to kill innocent civilians in the name of combating infiltration or to win gallantry medals, which we sincerely hope are awarded to candidates after complete verification of their antecedents? This is exactly where the dubiousness set in and if the Indian media puts them in a ‘bad light’ there are well obvious reasons for the same. There is another point of consternation between state government(s), civilians and the Army itself.
The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which gives the Indian Army unabated authorisation to pull the trigger as and when they encounter any dubious activity in J&K and Manipur is a constitutional provision which has now attained demonic propositions, especially after incidents of wide scale crimes against women and civilians were reported from both the states.
There have been many protests in both the states but the Act stays and so does the Army’s consent. While it cannot be negated that the armed forces do not have a lot of time to think and act as and when a situation arises, it should also not be forgotten that civilian deaths cannot be treated as collateral damage any more.
The Indian Army must develop an unflinching sense of what is right and what is wrong and that ‘faults’ like these will and should not be taken lightly by those in power. The Central government must ensure that the armed forces are herded and that the sense of commitment for the nation should not clash with personal interests or lack of individual foresight ever.