Indian Veterans’ Message: “Ab Tumharay Hawalay Watan Saathiyo”

28 Oct

Aasef Chauhdry

Army personnel of any country or society are given remarkable respect by the people of that respective country as they are reckoned as the icon of the security for that state. While the serving soldiers earn a great respect, the veterans are esteemed in an exemplary way. They are given preference over general public in every office and at every outlet. They are taken and treated as heroes. However, unfortunately, India is one such country where the ex servicemen are not only humiliated and disgraced but are considered as a ‘security threat’ as well.

Indian Military veterans had camped around the country’s capital Delhi since June 2015 to remind Modi government about their promised pension enhancement demand. Sadly, on 14 Aug 2015, Delhi police manhandled/ lathi charged these peaceful protesters even snatched medals from their shirts. They were protesting for the implementation of the long pending and promised demand of One Rank One Pension (OROP). The police officials not only were rude and insolent to the protesting ex servicemen from various ranks but also physically manhandled them. However, soon the government who realised its blunder was forced to backtrack after widespread outrage. In an obvious damage-control exercise later in the day, the government expressed regret over the Delhi police’s attempts to evict the protesting ex-servicemen from the protesting spot known as Jantar Mantar, saying it respects and honours the sacrifices of former soldiers and that special permission was given to continue their agitation. But to the government’s bad luck, the damage seemed to have been done, with furious veterans along with their families, had the plans to observe a hunger strike on August 15, 2015, the Independence Day while some veterans were determined to treat it as a “black Independence Day”. In an emotional twist, an ex-serviceman wore his medals on a shirt that he said had been torn by the police.

Terming the Delhi police action as “barbaric” and “undemocratic”, the ex-servicemen, who have been on protest for nearly two months, wondered how they could be a “security threat” when they had dedicated their lives to protecting the country while in service. Maj. Gen. Satbir Singh (Retd), a prominent member of the Indian Ex-servicemen Movement, said that, “This is shocking and obnoxious. Nothing can be worse. We are the protectors of India’s independence. We are requesting the police commissioner to restore our tents since we had permission. The move to remove our tents is barbaric, undemocratic and dictatorial as it comes on the eve of Independence Day”.

The Delhi police said they tried to evict protesters from various outfits from Jantar Mantar in the heart of the capital following a request by the New Delhi Municipal Council. The situation after the Delhi police’s barbaric and stupid act turned so sensitive that even the Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal also had to come out in support of the ex-servicemen and slammed the Delhi police.

Thousands of bravery medals may be returned to the government soon, if veterans who have been protesting the delay in the implementation of the one rank one pension policy have their way. Ex-servicemen, who have been on a relay hunger strike since June at Jantar Mantar, will be asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to meet them and take back 10,000 medals as a mark of protest. Though the government announced on September 5 that OROP would be implemented, the protesting veterans said there were seven major flaws in the plan. The veterans said the government had not issued the notification to implement OROP, which it said would do so within a month of the announcement on September 5. Meanwhile, the 114th day of the relay hunger strike at Jantar Mantar was marked as first, with only women family members of the veterans observing fast. Sudesh Gohat, wife of Major (Retd) Ajmer Singh said it was the plight of widows of veterans that made her join the agitation. She said while talking to widows of soldiers, who have to survive on Rs. 3,500 per month as pension, had moved her. Hence I decided to join the protest till the Prime Minister gives us true OROP.

Major General (Retd.) Satbir Singh, who has been leading the agitation as an adviser to the United Front of Ex-Servicemen, was determined to write to the Prime Minister seeking appointment. According to him, over the past year, 10,000 medals had been sent or given to the society by ex-servicemen across India and those will be returned to Mr. Modi after the ex servicemen society get a time from the prime minister. He said that, “The apathy of the government has left us with no other choice. In the past disgruntled ex-soldiers had returned their medals to the President, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. But, this time we want to give the medals to the Prime Minister, as it was he who promised during the election campaign that we would get OROP. Returning the medals will send a message to the entire country that assurances given have not been fulfilled,” said Maj. Gen. Singh.

It is almost a decade that the retired Indian armed forces persons are struggling that irrespective of the year of retirement, the pension on retirement should be same of one rank. Indian Ex Servicemen Movement (IESM) representing 2.5 million Indian retired all ranks and their widows have resorted to public protests and hunger strikes since Jun 2015. Many retired senior officers are writing to the Indian President and Defense Minister on the subject especially in the light of Narendra Modi promise during general elections. As per Indian veteran society, “the message of dissatisfaction has already gone to the serving personnel as they saw the action of Delhi police on their television screens”. Indian Govt is under pressure after this incident however is not expected to announce some revolutionary decisions. The Modi government is in habit of taking the issues lightly as they have done recently in case of returning of awards by the renowned authors/writers as a protest against Dadri lynching case and on Dr. Kalburgi’s murder. The ex servicemen of India might have got some lollypop by now which is likely to finish soon.

 

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