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Saluting spirit of empowered citizen warriors in Covid times

As India limps back to a semblance of normalcy, some heartwarming stories shine through the pall of gloom and despair. Three examples of administrators readily come to mind: Iqbal Singh Chahal in Mumbai, Gagandeep Singh Bedi in Chennai, and Dr Rajendra Bharud in Nandurbar, who decided to take responsibility and discover their legacy.

In Army parlance, they chose to be COs and ‘Tigers’ of their domains. Mantra in LBS Academy has to be: “Each DC to be Tiger”. The challenge, of course, is whether politicians will allow them space? The sheer magnitude of the endeavours by selfless Covid yodhas (warriors) requires many more columns to document them.

Stories of oxygen langars, gold donations for medical facilities, and such initiatives keep up the flagging faith. For the present, a collective reverent salute to them will be in order. It will be most appropriate to objectively introspect our priorities: do we need more statues and religious shrines? Or should we first fix health, skill-building, and education?

It was indeed heartwarming when after the tsunami on December 26, 2004, the then Indian PM announced that India will not accept foreign aid for disaster relief. The statement

was an affirmative articulation of intent to be a net provider of security and disaster relief, in regional context.

It specifically resonated with our generation because we had observed compulsory, weekly ‘skip a meal fast’, at an impressionable and tender age of 10 years. It was former PM Lal Bahadur Shastri’s call, as the nation was facing a food grain crisis and was literally on ‘ship to mouth’ existence.

As aid once again pours in from all over, it is a stark and rude reality check. It is ironic that statement post-tsunami was made by probably one of the humblest PMs. This assertion was followed by a quest for the UN Security Council seat, dalliance with groupings like BRICS and often punching much above our weight class. Primarily, fuelled by our own unscientific ‘jugaads’, more importantly, hope and wishful thinking, substituting for policy and strategy.

Event management and acronyms have distracted us from meaningful hard work.

While families desperately searched for beds, oxygen, and even decent last rites, we saw the most distressing exposure of profiteering and shameless racketeering. Who are they and why do they survive? Most are so-called ‘fixers’, propped up by our politicians and their ilk.

Can a nation aspiring to be ‘Vishwa Guru’ (world leader) allow such corruption and degeneration of our moral DNA? Will they ever be fixed? Not till every Indian decides to be ‘Jagruk Hindustani’, or conscious and responsible Indian.

Zero tolerance and social ostracizing of profiteers is the way forward.

Post-mortem of the government is warranted, but more important is introspection and collective audit by RWAs (resident welfare associations) and panchayats to rebuild our social capital. Spiritual gurus should resurface and tamper their teachings with good science, evidencebased inquiry, and social service.

Time to be ‘Karma Yogis’.

The concept of citizen warriors got highlighted in our fight to defeat Pakistan’s design to spread the arc of terrorism from LoC, beyond Akhnoor to stretch till Gurdaspur, on Punjab border. The diabolic plot is to include districts of Jammu, Kathua, and Samba (in the former state of Jammu and Kashmir). Pakistan chooses to classify this settled stretch of 193km of the International Border (IB), as a working boundary on the pretext that the entire erstwhile state of J&K is unsettled.

This riverine corridor with a shallow depth of 12-20 km provides avenues for infiltration and high visibility target on NH, linking Kashmir to the mainland.

Multiple streams with tall grass and tunnels are a nightmare scenario for a counterinfiltration grid. All this while, logical suggestion to shift focus to depth lateral of Dhar-Udhampur languishes. It will be interesting to watch the alignment of new Delhi-Amritsar-Katra highway. Will it avoid vulnerable corridor, or spirituality and lobbies will override strategy and geography?

Pakistan has orchestrated multiple attacks against security establishments in Samba, Sanjuwan, Janglot, and Kathua in this stretch. Infiltration has also transgressed into the IB sector with attacks on Dinanagar and Pathankot. The hero of this story is a simple carpenter, code named ‘AK’ from a border village just 8km from IB. He saw three suspiciouslooking strangers sitting near a culvert during his early morning milk delivery routine.

While most will avoid such situations, AK went to the nearest Territorial Army unit and volunteered to guide them on his bike. This resulted in a fierce encounter at Arnia on November 26 and 27, 2014, and neutralization of four dreaded terrorists, headed for Samba, for greater mayhem.

AK, a true CW (or nagrik yodha), is now in uniform. This action inspired initiatives like WhatsApp group of sarpanches to report such activities to security grid.

Another vigilant railway employee averted an accident by diverting a train when he discovered that track had been tampered with by terrorists, who later attacked Dinanagar police station. Both AK and the railway employee earned well-deserved Army Commander’s Commendation.

It will be appropriate to flag another story, of a soldier from the RR battalion, on leave near Samba. NCO, while collecting sweets for a relative’s wedding in early morning, gave a lift to two terrorists, in his van. He did report but only in the evening, giving time to terrorists to go into the safe hideout. These terrorists, part of a group that attacked Rajbagh police station in Kathua, later targeted Samba military station, next day.

The bottom line is one doesn’t need a uniform to be a citizen warrior.

The mandatory caution is in order. Such initiatives are complementary to law enforcement and not an excuse to form vigilante groups like anti-Romeo squads. The challenge is not to transgress, the thin line between the two. ‘Hosh’ in all cases has to override misplaced ‘Josh’.



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Disclaimer

Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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