Ex-Servicemen are one of the most underutilised resources in our country. From its very infancy, the Indian state had to contend with the threats to its sovereignty and nationhood. We started with a war in Jammu & Kashmir and have lived with strife in that region since then. We inherited a war in the country’s North East and most of the seven states in the region have been engulfed in protracted armed conflicts and insurgencies for more than half a century.
Although the roots of an armed peasants war in India go back to nearly 200 years, the wars resurfaced and invigorated in democratic India along with its independence in 1947. We recognised them as the militant Naxalite movement and which the analysts believe, took shape as the present-day Maoist movement in the late 60s. This is an extraordinary and virile armed insurgency about which the government has been unequivocal in terming it as the biggest threat to India’s internal security. That is the story of our Homeland Security.
The attacks on the railways in Mumbai, the attack on the Indian Parliament and eventually Pakistan orchestrated terrorist strike on the country’s commercial capital on 26 Nov 2008 brought home the precariousness of the security of our homeland. Each unhappy spectre unfolded in front of our eyes with comprehensive consciousness in the back of our minds that we always had a devoted well-trained resource to contend with these contingencies in spirit and letter.
Ex-Servicemen, a rich human resource
These were our Ex-servicemen from the Indian armed forces, paramilitary forces and even ex-policemen who had faced armed conflict. Contrary to a popular notion, they were not merely gun-toting field men but they carried with them experiences of armed conflicts and at the same time entrusted with caring for the populace within whom they functioned. They could wield the most sophisticated conflict waging equipment and they handled most intricate communication devices.
It is not too late to induct ex-servicemen into our security ethos, far more than what we are doing at the current juncture.
Bomb disposal experts came from this community and life-saving sciences nurtured under their aegis. They were multilingual but cohesive. The groups had learnt to exist, survive and function in jungles, deserts and over peaks and mountains. This community was never put to plausible use and application.
Let me make a humble submission. It is not too late to induct them into our security ethos, far more than what we are doing at the current juncture. It is not good enough to bring a few into the intelligence bureau or engage some to drive public utility vehicles. Neither is it sensible to engage them only as security guards for the rich and the well provided or as front men at five-star hotels.
They should, on the other hand, permeate within the society to spread the slogan of order, discipline and allegiance to a state. One such highly gratifying illustration comes from the actions of the Indian Railways Minister, Ms Mamta Banerjee who plans to induct as many as 14000 ex-servicemen into the fold of the Indian Railways during the forthcoming financial year.
I believe that the current expertise deficit one notices in the Indian police systems can be very largely overcome by utilising the trained ex-servicemen to indoctrinate police cadres to make them aware of their potential as members of a force which is competent to tackle organised armed conflict.
Such an endeavour conducted under the aegis of Chhatisgarh government is bearing fruit with the newly trained police force acquiring a confident and purposeful veneer. The benefits of this experience aught to percolate not merely to other states but also to the civilian community who need to prepare themselves for the threats they have to face in the future.