A question we need to ask

An introspective state has to be inferred, it is not always made manifest.

Published: 30th May 2017 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th May 2017 02:28 AM   |  A+A-

An introspective state has to be inferred, it is not always made manifest. The signs of an internal debate, the interior dialogue that goes on all the time within a system and allows it to cope with ideas that pose a challenge, have to be read off what comes into view.

That the Army Chief, Gen. Bipin Rawat, had to actually issue a clarificatory statement, justifying the use of a human shield in the virtual theatre of war that is Kashmir, in itself is a pointer of sorts. That he had to rationalise it as an "innovative" measure resorted to in the context of a "dirty war" shows that Major Leetul Gogoi's little manoeuvre was out of line.

The young officer used a Kashmiri as a human shield by tying him in front of his jeep as he escorted fellow army men and election officials out of a polling booth. Protesters were throwing stones and petrol bombs, and there was no better way to save human lives without violence, the Major offered in his own defence. Reams have been written about the incident. But the public storm, the heavily polarised opinions and allusions to the Geneva Convention (that too at a time when India had successfully taken Pakistan to the International Court of Justice) ... all these go to show that things were way beyond normal protocol.

The army chief attempted to pre-empt the terms of the debate by awarding Major Gogoi even while an internal court of inquiry was seized of the matter—the latter fact itself an admission that a line had been crossed. Normally, there is political consensus during times of war. But here, the defence minister had to ward off criticism by saying the army has to take operational decisions and these cannot be governed by what is said in the Parliament. The picture of a young officer from Assam having to defend his actions in Kashmir shows an India brutalised by its present history. It was perhaps up to the army chief to ask, what is the point of winning a war if India's stature is imperilled?


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