Indian soldiers carry a coffin containing the body of L/Nk Hemraj
This is going to sound silly but for the past week I was almost convinced we were once again headed towards an ugly armed confrontation with Pakistan. Over the beheading of Lance Naik Hemraj and the mutilation of Lance Naik Sudhakar of the Rajputana Rifles in the Medhar area in the Poonch sector of the Line of Control with Pakistan. It is odd that more than a week after the event, we aren’t sure how exactly these appalling incidents occurred. There has been no credible narrative on this. What our army has told us is that it is very angry that two soldiers were mutilated and that it will respond.
I am no military buff but I have a hunch that when the response comes from our side, it will not be in the form of our soldiers going across the LoC to distribute sweets. Being a soldier, I imagine, is very grim business. That many fine soldiers receive their best awards posthumously tells us what a soldier signs up for. A soldier’s back injury, for example, does not come from sitting in front of a computer in a sedentary job situation. Oh no. It is more likely to be combat-related. He learns combat tactics, kill skills, all his soldiering life with the sole aim of vanquishing The Enemy. He is a trained killing machine in a kill-or-be-killed world. The better killer is the smarter soldier.
One of the closest things to a battle for our soldiers is to be posted along the LoC in either Uri or Poonch sectors. It is a live border with a range of activities: constant shelling, sniper fire, mortars, infiltrations, exfiltrations and what have you. It is unlikely a soldier there experiences too many dull moments. You make a mistake, you pay with your life.
In the current discourse, one aspect has not been highlighted adequately: that there have been two previous instances of similar beheadings in the last two years, one involving Kumaon regiment and another Rajput. The army chief admitted to this only when confronted with it. What he doesn’t tell us is what the army did in the previous occasions: did it make a big song and dance about it and if it did not, why not? Did our government ask for the decapitated heads to be returned? If so, were they? What is different this time around? I do not condone mutilations and beheadings which I find barbaric but alas, they are a fact of life: Lance Naik Hemraj and Sudhakar’s colleagues are not going to feel the milk of human kindness welling up from within when they next confront Pakistani soldiers in their line of duty. These situations tend to be hair-trigger ones where emotions run high and anger explodes in savage ways. I do not believe that our soldiers can be any different from our Pakistani brethren.
What we do not also know is what is it that happened while Hemraj and Sudhakar were out on patrol that led to their deaths, and why their bodies were left unattended enabling the Pakistanis to perpetrate their atrocity. Did the Pakistanis do it out of sheer bloodthirstiness or were they doing it out of a sense of grievance? Considering this is the third incident of beheading, there is something wrong in the way our army is letting their fallen slip repeatedly into enemy hands. I’m afraid we will not get to know what the truth is.