Even as the last notes of the Beating Retreat ceremony died away against the dramatic background of Rashtrapathi Bhavan another retreat was ironically occurring in Kashmir. In an act of unprecedented hostility, an Indian Army unit was left high and dry by the government, which booked them for murder.
This is after they defended themselves against an attack from a group of stone pelters in Shopian on Saturday. The soldiers finally had to react and two of the attackers were killed. To make the situation even worse the Mehbooba Mufti-led government has decided to set free stone-pelters who are suspected of acting on behest of vested interests and spurring organised, pre-planned protests to thwart army operations.
This ridiculous disparity in the decision to arrest army men and free the miscreants who are not just irate civilians but an organized crew is now becoming a test of Indian resolve. The fact that the mob was able to fling football sized boulders on army convoy and they managed to cause extensive damage to seven of the vehicles, warrants an investigation as to whether the protests were a planned and coordinated effort.
But the Kashmir government did not even care to see the footage of the incident and it is almost as if the soldiers have been indicted for protecting themselves. The FIR that has been recorded at the Shopian police station indicts the soldiers arbitrarily.
Furthermore, the Mufti government has now asked Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to 'avoid such action since they hamper the political and peace process."
What this means in real terms is that the army personnel must take their blows and fall on their knees and be sacrificed so that 'peace' can be maintained.
It is to be seen if Sitharaman will take her role seriously and back the army or will she take the slippery path of expediency. The message is clear. If the government does not back our soldiers it is simply sending them to their deaths and reneging on its duty.
Why would our soldiers patrol this state and keep the enemy at bay if their hands are tied behind their backs. The idea that our soldiers be made into cannon fodder is simply unacceptable.
What needs to be done is, the murder charges against the seven soldiers should be withdrawn immediately. The state government should then investigate the real motives of organised stone-pelting mobs and reconfirm if they are in cahoots with Pakistan. If so, they should be put behind bars. We cannot have people celebrating their act of assaulting our army and being seen as heroes for doing so.
We know that Indian soldiers are targets and they have to exercise great restraint in extremely violent circumstances even on their own soil. But should this go to the extent that we convert our soldiers into sacrificial lambs to a bloodthirsty mob?
The photographic evidence is incontrovertible.
If the government fails to defend the soldiers, it will cost India the morale and commitment of our troops. And the Modi government will be seen as weak and incapable of defending the military's prerogative to defend not only the nation but also the soldiers on the frontline.
By the same token it is incumbent upon the army brass and General Bipin Rawat to stand by their troops and squarely inform the government that this isn't acceptable. To do any less would be a failure of duty.
Updated Date: Jan 30, 2018 01:05:36 IST