Another Brave Soldier, Another Courageous Father

Truth is stranger than fiction…

In school, I had to study Tamil literature. One story from Sangam * Literature was about a brave woman of a traditional warrior family. On the first day of war, she loses her father; on the second day, she loses her husband. On the third day, when she hears the sound of battle-drums, she is overwhelmed with emotion — not grief, but patriotism. She summons her only son — a young lad and last male member of the family — hands a spear, and urges him to go defend the country.  I studied this story well, because I was sure we would be quizzed on this in the Final Examination. Then, I entirely dismissed the story from my memory. Unrealistic work of fiction! Really!

Really? Yesterday, I discovered that braver men exist even now. I read the story of 28-year old CRPF constable Alagupandi from Madurai district. He was killed in the Naxalite ambush in Sukma.

Cortege

Constable Alagupandi’s mortal remains arrive at Madurai Airport

This must have been a tremendous shock to his father Pitchaialagu, who had just shortlisted a bride for Alagu. Had the ambush not happened Alagu would have returned home to “see” a bride-to-be. But Pitchaialagu has taken the shock well.  After all, he is a retired soldier who knows how to deal with death.  Pitchaialagu’s two daughters are married to a policeman and army man respectively. Now his younger son Pavitran (23 year-old) has been selected in the Army and he is proudly sending him off. He is proud that his entire family serves the country.

Left: Patriot Pitchaialagu;     Right: Head Constable Padmanabhan

… but more tragic than fiction
There is one more poignant tale. Head Constable Padmanabhan (44) was to return home next month after serving the country for many years with honour. He was retiring next month, to be with his young wife and their 2 daughters. Padmanabhan was killed in the ambush and his family have lost their sole bread winner forever.

The greatest tragedy
The CRPF battalion was ambushed while on patrol duty: they were  guarding a road under construction. The road that would bring development to an economically impoverished zone; that would bring democracy and prosperity to the zone, where the Naxalites were running their own parallel tax collection racket.

Not a single “secular liberal intellectual” has raised his voice against the Sukma ambush. These shrill air-conditioned champions of liberty, have suddenly developed acute laryngitis. In Tamilnadu, where the martyrs hail from, our politicians were busy gloating over the success of a recent Bandh (general strike) or fomenting the farmers’ discontent.

For years, our politicians and bureaucrats have let terrorism simmer in Kashmir and Central India. They are still debating how our security forces should respond when rioters throw stones at them. If they hit back, they are abusing authority; if they don’t, they are ineffective. They want them to use pellet-guns while the rioters, in a bizarre sense of fair-play, are “permitted” to shoot real bullets from behind women and children. In troubled Kashmir, it is easy to label all this as a Hindu-Muslim conflict, instead of investigating the root cause: continuous and continuing misrule by dynastic politicians. In impoverished Central India, politicians have constantly neglected poor areas, ill-treated the downtrodden and thus sowed the seeds of armed insurgency. In a few cases where the security forces captured terrorist-leaders, politicians have “graciously” manoeuvred their release. Thus vote banks were enriched at the expense of soldiers. Yet, we want our soldiers to do our dirty work.  Nobody asks, if the security forces cannot protect themselves, who will protect us? The greatest tragedy is that we are an ungrateful nation.

 

 



*Notes
The era of Sangam literature is roughly between the 2nd century BCE and 3rd century CE (estimates vary). This story appears in Puranaanuru (verse 279) which is a compendium of works by several poets of this era. For die-hard enthusiasts, here is the original piece written by the poetess Okkur Maasaathiaar

கெடுக சிந்தை கடிது இவள் துணிவே
மூதின் மகளிர் ஆதல் தகுமே
மேல் நாள் உற்ற செருவிற்கு இவள் தன்னை
யானை எறிந்து களத்து ஒழிந்தன்னே
நெருநல் உற்ற செருவிற்கு இவள் கொழுநன்
பெரு நிரை விலக்கி ஆண்டுப்பட்டனனே
இன்றும் செருப்பறை கேட்டு விருப்புற்று மயங்கி
வேல் கைக் கொடுத்து வெளிது விரித்து உடீஇப
பாறு மயிர்க் குடுமி எண்ணெய் நீவி
ஒரு மகன் அல்லது இல்லோள்
செருமுக நோக்கிச் செல்க என விடுமே.

If you want more, you may find this blog interesting: Puranaanuru


 

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2 thoughts on “Another Brave Soldier, Another Courageous Father

  1. I am confused as to who you are really blaming here- the politicians?; but they are elected by the community, the community? but then you must be blaming all the individuals, the fact we have a volunteer police force, army? then would a draft or compulsory military, police service satisfy?

  2. Shankar, Let us keep aside the concept compulsory draft from this, because my piece had nothing to do with it. The problem is complex and elsewhere. The basic issue is that in the “disturbed” areas there is discontent. The discontent is usually because our political leaders have mismanaged these areas. The mismanagement has been both negligence and corruption. The bureaucrats have added insensitivity to the problem (they behave like white rulers). Yes I blame both these classes.
    Now this basic problem has to be addressed by investing in development. Sending the forces to quell riots is a temporary solution. When this temporary solution is extended for long years, it creates another problem: the forces are trained to use concentrated force against the nation’s enemies. Instead they are made to use sporadic force against our own citizens. They are caught in a dilemma — they are armed to fight, but they are sent with the advice to be circumspect. What will they do? They land in situations where they cannot even defend themselves.
    Meanwhile the opposition parties ( example: so-called left liberals) use this to score a political point. They have not participated in a healthy discussion about the development agenda, but are quick to blame the army. To avoid blame, the elected leaders do half measures to emasculate the army further. The politicians are busy fighting their petty squabbles, the bureaucrats are insensitive or impotent, and the army is in a catch 22. Meanwhile the development issue is completely forgotten!
    Yes, we elected the leaders. (We chose the least harmful from a list of bad options). I suppose the voters are indirectly responsible. Which is why I said WE are an ungrateful nation. But the bulk of the credit for this goes to our selfish, non-visionary politicians.

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