Suicide by Subedar Grewal exposes darker side of politicisation of actions of armed forces


Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, November 3: The suicide by Subedar Ram Kishan Grewal in protest against the denial of one-rank-one pension seems to have hit  the Narendra Modi government and the Sangh Parivar like a meteor, at the time when jingoistic climate has been generated in the country with regards to the actions of the armed forces for national security. The members of the Sangh Parivar are dubbing all those who are questioning actions by security forces like the killing of eight SIMI activists near Bhopal as anti-nationals. Punjab had been the laboratory for years for fake encounters that even the Akali Dal governments failed to probe. The Supreme Court verdict in case of cremation of  about 3,000 unidentified dead bodies in the cremations grounds of just Amritsar and Tarn Taran is a pointer.

Over the years, it is the meaning of the term ‘martyr’ that has come to be distorted. Now every member of the armed forces dying in the line of duty is eulogised as martyr. The members of the family of deceased Subedar Grewal also want him to be declared a martyr. The term as defined in various dictionaries and political terminology is different. In recent history, it is people like Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Sukhdev, Udham Singh Azad and Kartar Singh Sarabha who are the martyrs in the true meaning of the term. This term has its roots in Christian, Islam and Sikh theology.

Every struggle has its own martyrs. For the Sikhs, all those who died in the Golden Temple complex during Operation Bluestar, the brutal army action in June, 1984, are martyrs. They were described as such by leaders like Parkash Singh Badal and Surjit Singh Barnala in their joint statement issued a few days after the action hours before their arrest. The Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple) complex has a memorial next to Akal Takht dedicated to Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and other martyrs of Operation Bluestar. Indira Gandhi is a martyr who was assassinated by her two Sikh security guards to avenge Operation Bluestar.

The term is now being used in the context of creating what is being termed as nationalistic fervour, whatever it means.

It is in this context that the ‘surgical strike’ across the Line of Control across Uri sector  to neutralise launching pad of terrorists in Azad Kashmir has come to be politicised. The term earlier used was ‘commando action’. This used to be ongoing affair across the line of control. According to the experts, it is this politicisation that has created a problem that the political leadership did not visualise. The security people on the border have to patrol the area from one bunker to another. Now they come under sniper fire. The terrorists from the other side cross over to this side when the security people are confined to bunkers during firing from across the border.

It may be recalled that the BJP even went to the extent of humiliating then prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh over his Pakistan policy.  The situation has now worsened.

It is the timing of suicide by Grewal that assumes significance in this context.  Not that he might have planned it. On the one hand, an atmosphere is being built up in the context of actions on the border by the security forces and on the other, a retired army personnel commits suicides in the national capital as he was denied OROP. Defence Minister Manohar  Parrikar today admitted there were some glitches in its implementation that would take about two months to sort out.

There is yet more alarming aspect of the present governance that came up yesterday in Delhi. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was detained by the police while he went to meet Grewal’s family in the hospital. It is shocking  that a chief minister can’t visit a hospital in his own state.

At one level, the Modi government has gone to the extent of questioning authority of the Delhi chief minister. There is something wrong with democratic functioning of various institutions in the biggest democracy of the world. Delhi police functions under the Union home minister.

Rahul  Gandhi is member of Parliament. He spent virtually the entire day under police custody. Both Rahul Gandhi and Kejriwal were there at Grewal’s cremation.

One can term is as a positive aspect of Indian democracy that the parties in power behaves and act in a similar fashion.


Jagtar Singh


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