A major lesson to be learnt from last year’s over 100 days of turmoil in Kashmir Valley is how effectively social media can be misused against peace and security. Barely had the embers of that mayhem cooled that another surprise was sprung on social media.The first salvo came from Border Security Force (BSF) constable Tej Bahadur Yadav, who put out a video which went viral on social media, repeatedly showing a ‘chappati’ and ‘daal’, while alleging that personnel are served bad quality food and at times they are forced to go to bed hungry as well as accusing unnamed officers of illegally selling off rations issued for the force.
The second was Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) constable Jeet Singh, who asked why the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF)personnel are not provided facilities at par with their army counterparts, when they are also performing similar tasks. “We (CRPF personnel) do all kinds of duties inside the country like deployment for the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and Gram Panchayat elections. We contribute services in most places in the country. Despite doing all these duties, there is a big difference between the facilities provided to the Indian Army and the CRPF”, he is reported to have said.
Soon after came the third video and for the first time from the Army, when Lance Naik Yagya Pratap Singh said that after he wrote to the president, prime minister, defence minister and the Supreme Court in June last year and that his brigade received a communication from PMO asking for a probe into his grievances. He then even began a hunger strike to protest the ‘injustice’ being done with him. His grievance was against the sahayak (orderly) system in the Army.
The fourth case was Army nursing assistant Naik Ram Bhagat, who expressed concern against discrimination and who also justified BSF constable Yadav’s complaint about poor quality of food.
This writer, having served in the infantry and armoured corps and having visited many army field formations, units and peace establishments as a defence ministry and army spokesperson, recalls that every soldiers’ cookhouse, colloquially called ‘langar’, for every sub-unit, always took pride in turning out sumptuous meals-whether cooked/ flavoured to a particular community’s taste or in units with all-India mixed class composition. Even food cooked while on operational deployment/ during exercises and often given packed to soldiers, has always been quite edible.
What emerges from these recent four videos is: (a) their coming one after the other,(b) all four individuals have been disciplinary cases, (c) all four belong to the same community/part of the country, (d) the timing of these videos happens to be after a spell of Indian Army’s punitive strikes/retaliations across the Line of Control in Kashmir valley, where Pak army and terrorists supported by it took quite a beating, (e) interestingly, in Yadav’s Friend’s List, there are reportedly a number of Pakistani citizens and (g) considering (d) and (e), the possibility of Pakistan military/ISI cannot be ruled out.The fact that these videos have been repeatedly aired on TV channels for up to four days continuously, it cannot be put past some elements within India, pro- Pakistan or anti-BJP, being behind this well- coordinated and sensational attempt to show security forces/the ruling government in poor light.
The Army Chief, General Bipin Rawat in his Army Day address warned that those using social media to draw attention to their problems are adversely affecting the soldiers guarding the border and that they could be held guilty and punished. He was quite forthright in speaking about the matter of sahayaks as buddies and urged soldiers to address their complaints within the Army’s due system, assuring that complaints could even be addressed to him and the GsOC-in-C of Commands through complaint boxes.
What needs to be undertaken urgently is accessing the friends list of the other three complainants and for all CAPFs, defence and para-military forces to clamp down on use of social media.