Monday, July 20, 2009

Power & Politics / Mail Today, July 20, 2009

THIS week we ought to have been celebrating the tenth anniversary of our victory in Kargil, but thanks to our politicians we won’t. We have always known better than to expect honourable behaviour from our politicians.

Last week, they dragged themselves down to the gutter level. Nothing could demoralise our forces more than downplaying the importance of the 1999 war in which over 500 of our bravest soldiers laid down their lives.

As if that wasn’t enough to trigger revulsion not just from the forces but even ordinary citizens, two senior Congress leaders — one a former union minister of state for home — were quoted by Headlines Today TV to the effect that Kargil wasn’t something that was worth celebrating. Credit to Sriprakash Jaiswal who at least knows which side won the war, though this former junior home minister does not know when the war was fought or whether it called for celebrations.

But hear this from Rashid Alvi: “ Kargil is not a thing to celebrate. Pakistan army entered our territory, we did not go across. Only the NDA wants to celebrate it as a victory”. Another Congress leader who did not wish to be quoted told the channel, “ The BJP derived political mileage from the war to win the 1999 election”. We should count our blessings that Alvi did not opt for a career in the military. And going by the logic of the unnamed Congressman ( it’s easy to see why he did not wish to be quoted), Indira Gandhi could have plotted the 1971 Bangladesh war with an eye on the elections a year later.

Our defence forces have always been apolitical and remain one of the few institutions that the country can be proud of. As a college student I remember seeing volunteers of the RSS and Jan Sangh collecting jewellery to raise funds for the war effort in 1965. Six years later, after General Sam Manekshaw forced the Pakistanis to surrender after the 11 day war, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, then of the Jan Sangh, led the thumping of desks as Indira Gandhi walked into the Lok Sabha and in a speech that many old timers still recall, he compared the then prime minister to Goddess Durga. Alvi, Jaiswal and their ilk need to be told that no history lessons are needed to know that Naik Abdul Hamid laid down his life in the 1965 war fighting for India and not for Indira or the Indian National Congress. Or that 22 year old Captain Vijayant Thapar died in Kargil fighting for Bharat and not the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Even more distressing is the attitude of the government which has limited the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Kargil to a minor function on the icy heights of Drass in Kargil. Neither the prime minister nor the defence Jaiswal minister is scheduled to observe remembrance.
Headlines Today TV quoted high placed army sources and said the forces were keen to celebrate in a big way but the government thought otherwise. Ironic, isn’t it, that this reluctance for public champagne popping — it called for nothing less — came in the very week that the prime minister Manmohan Singh took the pride of place at the Champs Elysees in Paris during the Bastille Day celebrations where the might of the French defence forces was on display.

Forget the likes of Alvi and Jaiswal who have disgraced their positions. The government has let our own troops down. They deserved better.

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