A scarecrow Soldier – Adfar Shah

    “We call it carnage, when they shoot and when they don’t, we call it crisis mishandling”.

Today when the world is celebrating the triumph of scientific men over nature, the status of ‘Aam Aadmi’ has got reduced to ‘the crows and sparrows’ as a result of increasing anomy, man’s routine protesting nature, shrinking resources and growing burden of unmet demands. The situation gets further worsened, when we talk about conflict-ridden societies, where the status of man in uniform i.e., a soldier viz-a-viz ‘Aam Aadmi’ has been reduced to that of a scarecrow. Amidst this never-ending drama of crows and scarecrow, the modern solider keeps on dwindling between extremes of ever-growing public sensitivities and Human Rights concerns, which not only impairs his role performance as a soldier, but thwarts the very concept of his role institutionalization as a soldier.

Though a cop is there to regulate the social discipline but to strike a delicate balance between his inner world, self-defense and duty for the public welfare, has turned all the difficult given the increased complexity of social phenomena over the years especially in the turmoil hit zones. All this has casted mounting pressures upon the psyche of a soldier, who finds himself caught in a dilemma while delivering on multiple fronts like handling work place affairs, managing home issues, regulating public law and order affairs that too without crossing the contours of public sentiment. Conversely, how can a soldier who is meant for public welfare and security disrespect the public sentiment while maintaining the law and order in the society – the society which pays him for his services. Today’s soldier is caught in the trap of the compound problems of secessionism, communal disharmony and the problem of religious nationalism versus secular nationalism (Ummah vs. Indianness, Naxalism vs. Secularism, Maoism vs. Democracy, Religion vs. State, etc,). Caught in the saga of  unending political unrests and uprisings, he alone faces the

brunt of most of the protests, social unrests and public uproar. Deployed at an eleventh hour, to confront the untoward situations while maintaining the sanctity of ethics of law and order, severely strains the soldier’s physical as well as mental setup who finds himself at cross-roads while delivering on the various fronts.

Today’s soldier needs all-round empowerment while combating the fourth-generation war, which is hardly the war of bows and arrows, guns and tanks but the mental war, a war of ideology, a challenge to come down from being a solider to a common man to understand the local psyche, ethos, sensitivity and sentiments, a war between the secular and the orthodox. Tackling the fourth Generation enemy is too difficult because it may not be an armed enemy from another land but can be even a common man who has developed certain tendencies deemed undesirable for the constitutional framework of the country. In today’s conflict ridden atmosphere, a civilian turns soldier and a soldier becomes a civilian. Sooner the soldier learns to use his mind as a weapon or ‘Heart as a weapon (as beautifully coined by the People’s General Syed Ata Hasnain), the better it is.

Though a soldier safeguards the social interests of nation and its people, he himself gets divorced from his social milieu. His image of a social being is to an extent tarnished by the stereotype-ism carried by the people around of being anti-human and anti-social, which result in growing anger and rage against him. Further the grown concern for the public security, human rights voices, past aberrations that may have resulted in civilian killings during uprisings, angry crowds, riots, home issues, family tussle, etc, have added to his woes. Any crisis mishandling, combat failures and the saga of unending political uprisings and growing concerns and issues of crowd control mechanism/management with public safety and without any collateral damage at all have exposed him to new vulnerabilities. The issues of crowd/ mob/riots management and emerged public uprisings that are mostly political now and have virtually put a soldier/policeman in a more volatile and vulnerable situation have been hardly deliberated upon by the so-called Human Rights activists and that is where, I feel the Soldier has been forgotten and divorced from his social milieu.

The question is, has the soldier been reduced to a mere scare crow, a mindless, motionless decoy or mannequin who has though a weapon in his hand  but cannot use that even for safeguarding his own life. Has the state forgotten the soldier’s human existence where he is victimized at every front, subjected to the fury of prolonged political conflicts in vulnerable zones and where the wrath of every miss-chief be it the miss-governance issues, mal-administration issues, public rage against dilapidated and defunct governments, corruption etc. is, nevertheless, faced by him all alone. Amidst such hiccups, does making police active or workable mean their blind installment at any place without vesting them with adequate apparatus of empowerment and self-defense? Do we pay attention towards the causes of growing number of soldier suicides or fratricidal episodes, reflecting the woes and inner crisis of an alienated soldier? The question is, can we afford an alienated soldier in the era like today?

 Just a separate defense budgeting is not sufficient to empower the Indian soldier or a cop. Civil society always is public centered? Does being a soldier of the country anyway mean overlooking his human rights? Does the state need to delineate a soldier from mere installation against valid public rage instead of delivering the goods or address the issues via good governance? I believe we as a state are de-humanizing a soldier gradually by subjecting him to bear all the brunt for none of his faults. Crying over AFSPA is alright but labeling it draconian needs a serious rethinking as a majority of people around are hardly aware of its mandate and objective reality. Besides all security laws are not draconian laws, though it is imperative to amend AFSPA not only in J&K but in all conflict ridden states in terms of its name and terminology used inside like ‘shoot to kill’ or like term, ‘Special powers’, which actually embarrass the common man. Therefore it should have a very neutral name because it is the name which casts more effect.

There are still so many stereotypes prevailing in all conflict ridden zones about soldiers and the public cries with state’s stringent pressure on them having narrowed down their horizon besides demoralizing this brave community. We as public need to understand them as equally a part of society and where we cry for our concerns, we must be equally concerned about their rights as well. We call it carnage, when they shoot and when they don’t, we call it crisis mishandling. So we have created a situation like devil and the deep sea for the soldiers.

Lastly, we need a thorough but objective research on People’s perception about a soldier’s intervention especially in turmoil hit zones.

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