Last month, 7 brave soldiers of various Indian forces were martyred in the line of duty while fighting terrorists at the Pathankot Air Force base in Punjab. My respects to all the jawans (soldiers) who keep vigil day and night so that the nation can remain safe.
That said, the purpose of this post is to talk about the patriotic vibes that the general, everyday public gets when something of this sort happens and is covered in detail by the news channels and social media. The way the tides of patriotic fervour strike heavily at our heart and fill us with the feelings of gratitude towards the armed forces and righteous rage towards the terrorists. Or when a girl is gangraped in Delhi in a moving bus and we are so moved and enraged that we hold candlelight vigils, denounce the incident on social media platforms and give an earful of our morally high-grounded opinion about the state of affairs in the nation to anyone who’d bother to listen to them because we feel the need to show everyone that we are upright, patriotic and good, responsible citizens.
Why does it take a tragedy to be covered heavily by the media for us to realize the dangers faced by our soldiers and the poor condition of women’s safety?
My question is – Why does it take a tragedy to be covered heavily by the media for us to realize what’s fairly obvious, i.e., the danger that our soldiers face and the poor condition of women’s safety, among other issues in our country? And more importantly, why is our compassion, respect and action limited to that period of a few days or a couple of weeks after such high profile incidents when the media channels cry themselves hoarse before moving on to the next big story? Aren’t the soldiers guarding our borders 24/7, 365 days a year, braving the elements and the enemy? Aren’t women getting attacked and violated throughout the country, every single day? The Pathankot attacks weren’t the first time in 2015 that we lost our soldiers, it wasn’t even the first terrorist attack last year. Punjab itself had an attack in Gurdaspur, and there are almost daily skirmishes along the border in Jammu and Kashmir. Ceasefire violations by Pakistan along the LOC are a norm and our jawans routinely have to take and give fire, some laying down their lives in the process. And in the Naxal belt, paramilitary forces fight Naxalites and death on a daily basis, in difficult terrains. Why don’t we mourn them like we are mourning the Pathankot bravehearts? And while we are at it, how many of us try to join the armed forces? The urban youth gets his graduate degree and a 40-48 hour per week job and is content to let the jawans fight at the border. Why doesn’t he apply for the Indian Army or paramilitary forces through the various recruitment drives that they undertake? True, there are a lot of youngsters who appear for various exams for the armed forces, but considering the population of our country and the large-scale vacancies at various levels in the Forces, that’s still a miniscule proportion. Where does our patriotism go when we have to choose a career?
The trendy, social media-savvy crowd will “like” and “share” the posts on Facebook describing the valour and life story of the brave soldier who lost his life in the latest terrorist attack, with those posting goading the reader with statements like “you will give a 100,000 likes to silly photographs of actresses. Won’t you like this post about our soldiers who fought and died bravely?” As if (no disrespect) liking a particular post on Facebook, rather than actually trying to enlist in the Forces, will work wonders for our nation’s security. That soldier who’s fighting enemies at the border, or in the Naxal-infested regions, will feel a whole lot better and much safer if you are there to watch his back, not if you’re liking his photograph on a social media platform.
A similar case is that of our response to assaults on women and international terror attacks. I was appalled by the difference in national and international public outcry in the aftermath of the almost-simultaneous Paris and Mali attacks. World leaders denounced the Paris attacks, people changed their profile pictures on Facebook and “#JeSuisParis” became the top trend on Twitter. But there was no tear shed for the people who died in Mali, or Egypt, or Lebanon, or the hundreds who lose their lives daily or live in perpetual fear in the Gulf region. Some might not even have bothered to know about those attacks. Why this hypocrisy on our part? Weren’t the victims of these attacks human? Aren’t their lives important? Why do we mourn only those for which media has enough airtime to spare? Why do you mourn a “Nirbhaya” but don’t think about the many cases, big and small, of physical, social, mental and sexual harassment that occur on a daily basis? Just because national TV doesn’t discuss the horrific nature of those assaults in gory details doesn’t mean they aren’t worth caring for. And, food for thought, how many of us bother with leaving our seats in a bus or metro train when an elderly person or a pregnant woman has to stand nearby? Isn’t that part of being a responsible citizen?
As a society, we need to be more even-tempered in our responses to national emergencies like Pathankot and other unfortunate incidents. Our women won’t feel safer anyday if we don’t become more sensitive to their plight. Praying for a Nirbhaya while not missing a chance to eve-tease that co-passenger in a crowded bus or metro train doesn’t exactly cover us in glory. Neither does it speak volumes about our patriotism when we change our profile picture on a social media platform in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack but when it comes to joining armed forces, we think and advise others too,”why would you go to the Army for such a hazardous job after getting such good marks in graduation?”, something that I was advised too by friends and extended family when I tried, unsuccessfully as it turned out, to enlist in the army through Short Service Commission at SSB, Bhopal, a couple of years back.
Following what’s trending on the media is good, but let’s just cool things down for a moment and think before we react to them. There are better ways to be a good, responsible citizen. Let’s start with that bus seat.