Encomium

This is a post from one of my previous blogs which I do not use anymore. So, I may safely post it here without fear of duplication.

It was a little after 10.30 pm. The usually rackety locality, flanking the main road on two sides, was unusually quiet.  At precisely 10.39 pm, the silence of the locality was rent by blaring sirens. It was the cue. From sleepy houses and deserted tea stalls, shadowy figures materialized in complete silence. They took their places on either side of the main road. The air had stopped moving a long time ago. It was a graveyard’s silence in the locality, punctuated only by the sirens which became louder every moment.

And then they were there. In open backed trucks shrouded by canvas. The trucks had no sirens. It was the pilot cars that escorted them. A short procession. Then again, why would they need a long one? Not when their life had been cut short.

It was a procession of the dead bodies of the 24 EFR Jawans who had been killed in Shilda on 16.02.2010.

The tail lights of the last car in the procession faded in the distance. The onlookers had been standing in silence, completely still. Slowly, now, they moved away from the road and went about their respective business. The usually rackety locality, however, remained still for the rest of the night. Grief had hushed it up.

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The gun salute given was broadcast live on the television. Most people have never seen one before. They sat glued to their television sets, marvelling at the rapidity with which the coffins were unloaded and decorated with the National Flag. They were impressed at the orderliness with which the Jawans (living) lined up and performed the last salute. They were amused when the jawans, after the salute, bent down and collected the empty cartridge shells. Well, that’s part of their duty isn’t it?

Yes, it is part of their duty. Their barrack building in Salua has two Farsi words engraved on the outer wall ……… Wafadari aur Bahaduri. Loyalty and courage. Well, they did die loyally, in service of their country. But could they show courage? They died with bullets on their backs. They died perhaps with food in their hands instead of guns.

They were unprepared, un-alert, soft targets. They had not anticipated the attack. They had trusted in being informed beforehand. They had to pay for these blunders with their lives. They had to die with their bullet-proof vests within inches of their reach.

“Paramilitary forces stationed in the heart of disturbance should have been prepared. They should have had high vigilance and better patrol. Miscommunication with the other combative forces and misinformation led to this unfortunate incidence. In a terrorist stronghold, you can never be too sure of safety. Underestimating your enemy is a mistake that has proved to be detrimental time and again. What, other than constant threat of insurgence, can be expected in a terrorist stronghold? ”.

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They died because they were not the policy makers or decision takers. They needed directions. They were given none.

There are two classes of people.

There are people who can direct, and therefore, there are people who need directing. A democracy creates leaders to direct its masses, through ordeals, towards the building of a welfare state. Its leaders are to shepherd the populace, mentor and guide them. Even in societies formed on the principle of equality, there is “a first among equals”. A doyen to tell what to do. If the elected leaders fail to do this duty, well, there is always someone who’ll fill the void. Terrorists are not born. Terrorists are created. They are created by the negligence, indolence and the weakness of the government. They are created by the prolonged desolation to which the people are subjected. They are created by utter complacency on part of the country’s defence system. They are created, because, they are let.  Every Frankenstein has a mad scientist in its making.

The television was broadcasting live. The officials saluted the dead bodies at the end of the function. Their duty for today was done. 

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The auto service from Kharagpur bus stand and railway station has its terminus in Salua. Regular travel creates opportunities to make acquaintance with people, jawans as well. Some are friendly, some unsociable. But they are all people, humans. Except those, of course, who came back in coffins at the back of the trucks. They are dead bodies now. Mutilated faces, dismembered bodies that once might have been co-passengers in autos. It took a bullet or shrapnel to change their status from living to dead.

It all happened close by.

Shilda is not on international borders. Nor is it in the remotest corner of the country. It is here and it is near. So, switching off the television does not keep the possibility of similar such terrorist attacks anywhere and everywhere, at bay. The gangrene is spreading. It won’t be stopped by closed doors and brick walls. Crossfire does not filter civilians every time it kills. The first year college boy who died in the attack has proved it with his life. He will not be given a guard of honour.

Doors won’t keep terrorists out. But an iron will might. A unified voice, ringing out in condemnation of acts that degrade human decency might set a ripple. The dead jawans’ families are already on the forefront. They have lost once to the terrorists. They don’t want to lose again. It is a small voice. But, it takes a small sound to create an avalanche. “Enough is enough”.

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It is long past midnight now. The people of the locality are sleeping. Their sleep will be heavy with grief tonight. Many have lost acquaintances, some have lost friends. But all of them have lost a battle against terrorism. As long as they are afraid, they will keep losing; friends, families and the right of a decent death. But the war can still be won. All it takes is the will to unite.

 “All for one and one for all”

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