“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of many things: Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax— Of cabbages-and kings— And why the sea is boiling hot— And whether pigs have wings.”
Lewis Carroll. The last couple of months have been momentous. Pakistani proxies attacked the Pathankot air base in January and a month later followed with another dastardly attack in Pampore. Bizarrely, at this time, in the prestigious environs of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), a group of students belonging to the AISF (All India Students Federation), the students wing of the Communist Party of India, shouted slogans in support of a terrorist, and against the Indian state. And in the Indian corporate, a relentless expose by the media led to the tumbling out of what could turn out to be a mother of scams, involving reputed business houses, bankers, politicians and civil servants. Amidst all this occurred a gripping tale of heroism and survival, which electrified a whole nation.
On 3 February 2016, tragedy befell the Sonam post on the Saltoro ridge, which overlooks the Siachen Glacier when an 800×600 meter ‘ice avalanche’ buried the post under 35 feet of ice boulders. Locating the spot where the post lay buried was near impossible. To find a survivor was unimaginable as life expectancy in such conditions is no more than 15 minutes. Yet, the commanding officer of 19 Madras and his men, brought on the first miracle by working day and night for five days, and locating their lost comrades, in an unparalleled display of raw courage, endurance and esprit de corps. And among the bodies, they found one that was still alive. That was the second miracle.
The news that L/Nk Hanamanthappa Kopad was alive enthused an entire nation. It brought home the fact that impossible odds can be overcome, through will and determination. It was indeed tragic that Hanamanthappa could not be saved, despite herculean efforts by the team of doctors treating him at the Army’s R&R hospital in New Delhi where he was evacuated. But Hanamanthappa came to symbolise the spirit of the Armed Forces – a message of hope to the nation that their Armed Forces will never let them down.
In the attacks by Pakistani proxies, the perpetrators of terror were eliminated, but their handlers in Pakistani continue to enjoy immunity. More hurtful was the fact that a section of students in the JNU, owing allegiance to a virulent Leftist ideology, at this time raised slogans in support of a convicted terrorist who was executed some years back after his death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court. Fighting the nation’s enemies on the border is one thing. Dealing with your own who support them is another. That this should occur in the JNU calls for serious introspection. Equally damning was the fact that a few political parties, hoping to score brownie points, jumped into the fray, battling for the students on the untenable ground of ‘freedom of speech’. Strange logic indeed, to be applied to those who seek the break up of their own country.
An agitation in Haryana in February, virtually brought Delhi to a halt, forcing the Army to be called out to restore order, which was promptly accomplished. While the Army remains the nation’s final bastion, there are many who seek to weaken the structure that so firmly holds the nation together. The recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission have done no good to military morale, as like the earlier pay commissions, this one too seeks to erode the status of the Armed Forces. If this is caused by bureaucratic jealousy, it must be curbed. If it is something more sinister, we are indeed in danger. Somewhere the rot must stop, else we may not have a military that can do the task that the nation expects of it. When thieves and half baked ideologues are eulogised, we need to ask ourselves whether pigs indeed grow wings, which enable them to fly.