Careless of eye and coarse of lip,
They marched in holiest fellowship.
That heaven might heal the world, they gave
Their earth-born dreams to deck the grave.
Marching Men, by Marjorie Pickthall
The “flaming” controversy, due to the govt decision to transfer/merge the flame of AJJ with the newer NWM close by, was actually a logical culmination of an earlier decision, but turned an emotive event for many. Goa Chronicle interviewed renowned author of the best-selling China focus book – “Elephant in the High Himalayas”, and a decorated former IPKF veteran himself, to investigate the issues involved. Readers would note that for the IPKF, there is no national level commemoration, held at the National War Memorial. In fact, the first memorial which came up for these unfortunate braves, who made the supreme sacrifice, was in 2009 near Colombo, not in India. India designed a memorial later in 2014 at Bhopal, under aegis of 21 Corps. In the recently held Army Day parade at Delhi, the mention/footage of IPKF was missing in the video clipping, shown by the Indian Army, whereas all other ops were covered. We highlight here the systematic relegation of the Indian Peace keeping Force, to the back benches of memory, never to be recalled. Col Sidhu’s call to the nation is timely and apt. The recently published book “Valiant Deeds Undying Memories” co-authored by Colonels Atul Kochhar and BR Nair also highlights a host of legacy issues of Op Pawan which need to be addressed.
Valiant Deeds Undying Memories:
Buy your Copy of this Book here
To read all parts of IPKF- The Curates Egg:
Watch IPKF Webinars:[one_half] [/one_half][one_half_last] [/one_half_last]
Col RS Sidhu, Sena Medal a veteran from the Army’s Mechanised Infantry Regiment who served in operation Pawan at all locations, while deployed there from 1987 to 1990. He is a strategic thinker and an author. Apart from his hands-on experience of dealing with LTTE in active anti-terrorist operations in Jaffna, his write-ups on strategic affairs have been published in magazines and journals of repute. He is also the author of two books, ‘Success from Being Mad’ on entrepreneurship ventures by veterans, and ‘Elephant on the High Himalayas’ on India China discourse.
Goa Chronicle: Sir, as an Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) veteran what are your thoughts on merging the sacred flame of Amar Jawan Jyoti (AJJ), with that of the National War Memorial (NWM)? Simply speaking could not both the flames be permitted to burn simultaneously and a lot of needless controversies avoided, rather than make kin of 1st World War and Afghan wars feel bad about the whole arrangement? The services themselves are bitterly divided over this issue it seems.
Col RS Sidhu: It is a storm in a Tea Cup! The AJJ was lit on 26 January 1972, with the inauguration of the adhoc War Memorial at India Gate, post the massive 1971 War victory over Pakistan. That the location, the all-India War Memorial Arch at India Gate, also held the inscribed names of all British Indian Army troops who were killed in action in pre–independence India, is incidental. Now that the NWM has taken shape, it should be the single point repository to honour all our braves. It should therefore naturally follow to have only one Eternal Flame to commemorate past and future soldiers of the Indian Armed Forces who have and shall give the supreme sacrifice to safeguard the country and its citizens. The merging of the erstwhile eternal flame was done with solemn dignity.
Goa Chronicle: Is it possible to break away from our Colonial past, as pre 47 and post 47, or should the Indian Army carry with them the traditions of the British Services Culture? After all, many of our units were raised by the British, whether they fought invaders or our own countrymen is another issue. The British did give the IA many fine traditions and solid institutions, whatever be their faults.
Col RS Sidhu: It’s a multi-faceted question that raises manifold pertinent and interesting issues.
Firstly, the very decision in 1972, to have a new NWM truly “National” in character, rather than continuing with the existing British Indian Army Memorial at India Gate, is an answer by itself. It reflected the political resolve to distance India, from its colonial past. The helmeted inverted rifle was a symbolic, yet simple and powerful representation of this effort. The NWM has been established by the Republic of India, post seven decades of its independence. Whereas the British rule in India lasted for 90 years from 1858 to 1947, it has taken us near 70 years thereafter to reclaim our lost cultural and political legacy. It speaks volumes of the success of the British policy to cut off India from its cultural roots, spanning thousands of years into its rich past.
There is also stiff ideological rift in Indian polity, whether the Mughal rule, that preceded the British, is to be termed as indigenous, or foreign. Embroiled in all this, is also the aspect of the 1857 conflict, between East India Company Presidency armies and their rebel sepoys aligned with the indigenous rulers, differently referred to as the 1857 Mutiny and First War of Indian Independence.
The relevance and co-relation of Jallianwala Bagh massacre of 1919 and the Indian National Army (INA) of 1943-45 also needs to be viewed from the perspective of India’s struggle for independence. The order to fire on peaceful agitators was blatantly illegal. A soldier’s oath and bounden duty is to obey ‘lawful’ commands, a fact well defined in jurisprudence world over. The British could get away with it in 1919 as the then British Indian Army was officered by Britishers, whereas the war time expansion of British Indian Army in the early forties had led to advent of substantial number of fighting units being officered by Indian military officers. Thus, the issue of portrayal of the Indian National Army (INA) as mutinous soldiers or freedom fighters had political overtones which gave impetus to the British resolve to leave India earliest. After Independence, we fumbled again, when we failed to honour the INA for their pioneering efforts and sacrifice, for about another decade or so more, before finding our feet and recognising them.
Looking at it from national perspective, the decision to instal the bust of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose at the India Gate, in close proximity to the NWM, is again an answer to these pertinent issues. At one stroke it legitimises the armed struggle by the so called ‘mutineers’ of 1857 and also the INA against the British rule.
There should be no hesitation in reclaiming our past cultural and martial heritage, beyond the British, and even beyond the medieval era foreign rulers of India. We should retain the traditions relevant to modern times and get over the rest.
Goa Chronicle: What about IAS and ICS, the IAS claims that they have broken away from the erstwhile ICS vestiges. They too carry a retinue of staff and old style of functioning even now. Can the Indian Defence services do likewise? Or is there a case for the Indian Defense Services to be treated separately, considering that not only Army but even the other two services have deep-rooted traditions dating back to the colonial past?
Col RS Sidhu: The British established the Military as their external coercive arm to protect and extend their dominion, the Police as their internal coercive arm to suppress dissent, and the Revenue Administration machinery as their internal coercive arm for filling their coffers. Even seventy years post-independence vestiges of this ‘Sarkar/Mai Baap’ mind set is still visible in our system of local governance and policing. The lavish colonial bungalow residences, colonially attired retinue and household staff in provincial India are glaringly out of place in the 21st century. As the revenue and police officials in their rookie days are required to serve time in the provincial heartland, exposure to such archaic traditions results in prolonging the colonial attitude.
These colonial vestiges of thought and outlook need to be identified and rooted out.
Goa Chronicle: Sir finally, should not the NWM now accord the same status of commemoration to all war KIA, as it is noted that only 71 War and Kargil War (which is described as “skirmish” in NWM) are commemorated selectively?
Tributes to an unknown and forgotten soldier of the IPKF in Sri Lanka by Lt Gen Hariz of Indian Army(Pic courtesy Sri Lankan Army Website)
Col RS Sidhu: All braves who laid down their lives in the various battles of the Indian Armed Forces deserve to be commemorated formally with solemnity at the NWM. Our group of IPKF veterans did honour the braves privately in 2021, to mark the signing of the Indo-SL Accord on 29 Jul 87.The resting ground of all these braves, cannot be a place of selective discrimination, with respect to according the singular honour of national commemoration. Let these hallowed resting grounds remain as such, and not become “battle grounds” for turf.
But a monument by itself is a mere collection of stones joined through masonry. For it to be alive and pulsating with energy people have to be attracted through activities. The Government needs to be creative to attract visitors to the NWM, while still maintaining its solemnity. Am glad to share that the authorities are alive to this requirement and putting in place institutional measures to achieve this aim.
Online facility to hold solemn commemoration ceremony, daily holding of Last Post ceremony where Next of Kin of braves are invited to attend, paying of homage by visiting foreign military dignitaries, visits by school children etc are being facilitated.
Let us not discriminate between braves of different wars …be it 62 War, 65 War or the IPKF: let the flame burn equally, and brightly for all braves, who gave their lives for the country irrespective of the cause and result. Let us be assimilative and not selective, for therein lies the great heart and strength of Indian democracy.
[author title=”Shefali Kochhar,” image=”http://goachronicle.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Screenshot_20210321-160233_LinkedIn.jpg”]Journalist, Goa Chronicle .
I am an entrepreneur who has tried her hands on various ventures like Electric Vehicle Charging Station , Online Retail Store / Trading and few more ventures. I have done my entrepreneurship from Amity University Noida.
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