17 Jan 2008, 1301 hrs IST
The secularists are the most sadistic people on this earth. In a poll on Bharat Ratna, they have included a Hindu hater M F Hussain, along with other money-minting self-obsessed rich people. Money decides definitely. In Sanskrit, an old proverb says: "All the virtues depend on the gold you have." None of the politicians would have a friend from the middle class or low income groups and their benefactors all come from the black marketing section. Arrogant to the hilt and scheming like D-company, they don't see anything beyond counting notes and votes and keep preparing for the next fraud in elections. They live on public money, from the day they enter this 'nation-building corporate business of politics' which needs no investment except words and gives high returns in form of bungalows (even when they actually don't need more than a SFS apartment) and money bags. Their birthday bashes are a scandal and their 'national outlook' never crosses the brick walls of their party offices. Even Ratan Tata and Sachin Tendulkar have earned their pound of glory and public applause. They are there every day on the front page and for a good reason. Their money is unfathomable and often one hears of their battle with chartered accountants on how to manage their colossal sums of money. Now all that they need is a peaceful happy life in their dreamlands - but not the ones that has been snatched from poor farmers of Nandigram and Singur. Why should they encroach on the territory meant for the servers of the nation and not for those who have extracted their share? Hence my Bharat Ratna goes to the valiant Indian soldier. He lives and dies for the nation, for all of us. Like the Ganga, his life is a saga that defines welfare and security for the rich and poor, for the high and the low, for a scholar extraordinary to the illiterate fellow countrymen without boundaries and discrimination. He is not rebellious to take the reins of the nation in his hands to eliminate the rogues from parliamentary democracy, but he defends and obeys the Constitution in the most impressive and exemplary manner. He is the real saviour of Bharat, a Ratna indeed. Having conducted the Indus festival for eight years I have seen Indian jawans in the bone chilling temperature of minus 40 to minus 60 standing straight on the defence post. It was only during Atal Bihari Vajpayee's rule that George Fernandes as defence minister provided proper hospital services including CAT scans in Siachen. Earlier, IAS babus were deciding how and what facilities jawans on those dangerous snow-bound heights should get without ever visiting the region themselves. Vajpayee and George have both risen above petty politics and endeared themselves to the common Indian as statesmen. During Pokhran -2 and the Kargil victory, their leadership shone with the Jai Jawan spirit. But they remain exceptions.
The truth is that jawans have to depend on politicians endlessly. Even today the policies affecting their decorations, pensions, retirement schemes and post-retirement benefits are in knots. Their 78 fellow jawans are languishing in Pakistan jails since the 1971 war, but it's not a priority for any government to ensure their release. Suppose a politician’s child was behind bars in a foreign land, the entire state's power would have been put at stake to ensure a safe return. But since jawans are mortals of a lesser order, their voices receive no hearing in the corridors of power. Their victories and sacrifices are talked about by the common people. They fight without complaints and do not let grudges against bureaucratic injustices linger, for the sake of the motherland. In Kashmir, while going to have a look at Kishan Ganga and Neelam Valley, I saw what a day in a jawan’s life in a terror-stricken valley looks like: The jawans get up at five; prepare to clear the roads, checking if jihadis have hidden any explosives, so that traffic can be allowed to pass from six onwards. Their breakfast and lunch is prepared before sunrise and handed to them - a few puris and alu sabzi. The whole day is spent with a constant vigil demanding utmost caution. With a 30 kg plus bullet-proof jacket and an equally heavy AK 47, with a water bottle hung on the side and a full load of ammunition, our jawan keeps vigil and kills the traitors with alacrity. Still, so much poison is spread against him in the valley that he is advised not to take even a glass of water from a nearby village. The whole day is spent as a stranger in his own land, with no one around having respect and sympathy for the warrior. And he knows well that despite having spilled his blood to protect the locals and the nation's territory, he is not allowed, constitutionally - thanks to Article 370 - to buy an inch of land here. If by any chance something goes wrong, based on wrong information by local informers, he is hanged alive in the media and by human right activists who take a special pride in highlighting the terrorists 'pains' to earn dollar coated awards from Rome and New York. In Partapur, the base camp for Siachen, a colonel told me a true story of a soldier trapped at a glacier. In that killing weather, a pilot saw an SOS signal from down below and reached there at great risk. What he saw froze him: an officer was trapped down deep in a crevasse and was crying for help. A rope was sent down, but he was unable to use his hands to grab it. A buddy offered to go down and pull him out risking his own life. But by that time his body had already got glued to the icy walls of the crevasse. The pilot tried to use his knife to extricate the skin and bind him with a rope to pull him sitting in the helicopter. But it meant skinning the trapped soldier. The weather was swiftly turning worse and the copter had to leave. The end for the trapped soldier was slow and indescribably painful. He was asking with tears in his eyes that he be shot dead to save him the excruciating pain. Lieutenant Saurabh Kalia of 4 Jat regiment laid down his life in the Kargil war at the age of 22. He was captured along with his patrol party of five jawans and tortured by the Pakistan army for 22 days but none of them opened his mouth. Pakistanis inflicted burns on these Indian officers with cigarettes, pierced their ears with hot rods, removed their eyes before puncturing them and breaking most of the bones and teeth. They even chopped off various limbs and private organs of the Indian soldiers besides inflicting unimaginable physical and mental torture. After 22 days of torture, the brave soldiers were ultimately shot dead. A detailed post-mortem report is with the Indian Army. Nothing happened afterwards. The father of Lt Kalia has been trying to collect enough signatures to submit a petition (http://tarun-vijay.blogspot.com) before the UN Human Rights Commission. This is something that the Centre should have done but Indian millionaires are busy launching calendars of bikini-clad girls, spending millions on yacht parties and fighting for Bhajji. The situation is the same, if not worse, on the Northeast frontier. The jawans are fighting a battle that hardly gets an honourable mention in the media or in government's achievements. Terrorists in the Northeast are supported openly by the local church (NSCN-IM) and ISI, like the ULFA whose leaders operate from Bangladesh. On the one hand, the government engages the terrorists in peace talks and allows them to roam free; on the other hand, the Army is deployed to protect the citizens. Our jawan might have been born in a village in Bihar or Kerala or Manipur, he could be a proud Ladakhi, Naga or a Sikh, but he stands out as an undiluted wholesome Indian spirit and an invincible symbol of patriotism. With Republic Day drawing near, lets celebrate the Jai Jawan's victorious colours with a peoples' Bharat Ratna conferred on him.