Editor's note: This article was published on 20 February in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack that claimed the lives of over 40 CRPF jawans. It is being republished in light of the air strikes conducted by India on Tuesday, the growing tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad, and the shrill war rhetoric that has taken hold of social media ever since.
The month of December last year marked 25 years of the 85th course of the National Defence Academy at Pune. I had the privilege to join my husband in the celebrations at his alma mater. The levels of excitement and 'josh' at the reunion were high even though some of them had not met each other since graduating from the academy and had chosen to serve three different arms of the defence services — the army, navy and air force. After many-a-handshake and rounds of back-slapping, the officers remembered their course-mates who had died in the line of duty.
The mood had turned sombre. When the next of kin were offered a token of remembrance, it was not only they who had tears in their eyes. The eyes of all those gathered were moist with unshed tears.
I was meeting most of husband's batch mates and their families for the first time and had never met those who were no more and yet, when I met the little kids and the wives of deceased officers, I choked up. Although those families had accepted the fact that their rock was not among them, there was a distinct sadness in their eyes. The young children showed maturity beyond their years and held back tears even when they saw other children with their fathers.
The Pulwama attack has again left 40 families (and counting even as I write this) bereaved. Thousands of people have taken to social media to demand justice, action and revenge from the enemy on the other side of the border. "Let us go to war", "No mercy this time", "Kill them", "Let us bomb them" or "Let's go full throttle this time" — such armchair bits of advice and calls for retributions have flooded social media.
But who needs a war?
Forget international sanctions, forget economic repercussions and forget the watchful eyes of the United Nations. Have these people who are demanding a full-fledged action ever given thought to what an actual war would mean? I was engaged to be married when the Kargil war began. My fiancé was one of the pilots in the Indian Air Force who was flying from Srinagar to the conflict zone everyday, risking his life in the line of fire.
Every day there was a risk of Pakistani missiles hitting the aircraft. And every night I would just pray and wait eagerly for the customary call just to hear his voice. It gave me assurance for the night that he had returned to base safely. After one of the fighter pilot's aircraft was shot down, the officer was tortured till he died. His body handed over to Indian side was riddled with bullets and inhuman torture marks. He left behind a toddler and a devastated wife. Who among these armchair crusaders demanding war remembers the martyred officer? Who bothered to find out how his wife and child are faring today?
There were hundreds of army officers and soldiers who were killed during the Kargil war. Some who escaped death, lost their limbs and were handicapped for life. Who reached out to them? Who has tried to reach out to the 40 families now? Who has thought of providing any assistance to the widows or children? Who is keeping a count of those who are dying every alternate day at the border?
War with Pakistan is not a cricket match that one can sit and watch from the comfort of one's home on television and give advice about. It is not a simple victory and defeat situation. It is not a statistic count like runs and wickets; it is blood, death and destroyed families. The war does not claim just one man. It leaves in its wake heartbroken parents, wife and children.
As for the people asking for revenge, what have they got to lose? It is me and women like me — the mothers, wives, sisters and daughters — who lose everything. Has anyone ever asked us whether we want war? I want my husband to at least call me and wish me on our anniversary if he doesn't get leave from duty. When I am scared, I want to rest my head on his chest and not on a framed photograph. I want him to fold me into his arms for assurance that all is well. I want my brother to respond when I next send him a text. I want my friend to share his hopes and dreams even if he is far away. I want my child to have a happy childhood by her father's side.
I want what all the other women and other people sitting in their homes have.
It was the fear of being killed that made some people run away from Kashmir leaving their ancestral property and homes, to settle down in rest of India. They did not put up a fight for their own homes. But everyone wants a soldier to stay on and fight. And every soldier is doing his duty without running away even if his friends are dying right in front of his eyes. He sheds a silent tear, wraps the remains of his colleague's body in the Tricolour and continues to stand at watch, fighting for those who will not promise that if he dies, his wife will not be asked to provide proof of his death, his daughter will not be molested on the road and his parents will have a well-wisher.
The soldiers are not killing machines that one can turn them on and switch off at will. They are humans and have emotions too. Staying strong during adverse times and bottling up the pain plays on the emotional well-being of soldiers too. I have seen my husband cry like a child after he lost some of his friends and acquaintances in war and air crashes. I have seen my brother and uncle saddened on losing their colleagues and friends while on a mission and I have offered a shoulder to a friend whose husband died in the line of duty.
No, I don't want a war.
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Updated Date: Feb 27, 2019 16:17:19 IST