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Indian Press (31 Oct 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)


Complete the Justice








New Age Islam Edit Bureau

 

October 31, 2017

Dineshwar Sharma should be cautious in choosing his priorities in Kashmir

By Abhishek Saha

Love, marriage: Don’t interfere

By Asian Age

Enlightenment — The Only Revolution

By Swami Chaitanya Keerti

The great unifier

By M Venkaiah Naidu

Lessons from Kirkuk

By The Hindu

Whatever happened to rule of law?

By Robert Fisk

Cry of the besieged soldier

By Hasha Kakar

Compiled by New Age Islam Edit Bureau

URL: http://newageislam.com/indian-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/complete-the-justice/d/113080

 

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Complete the justice

By Shireen Vakil

October 31, 2017

The recent Supreme Court judgment making sex with a girl between 15 and 18 years even within marriage a criminal offence may have set in motion a series of positive effects for the girl child. In its order, the apex court said that it is removing the distinction between an unmarried and married child because “it is arbitrary, capricious, whimsical and violative of the rights of the girl child and not fair, just and reasonable and, therefore, violative of Article 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution of India”.

The immediate consequence of this order will be for proponents of child marriage who take cover under the garb of “tradition” and “belief’”. They will now face a severe deterrent. It is shocking, that even in 21st century India, child marriage continues to be rampant. At last count, there were 23 million child brides, with approximately 30 per cent of marriages in 2016 being child marriages. With the entrenched patriarchy in our country, a child bride is often bought by old men looking for sexual and domestic servitude. By making it criminal to have sex with child brides the court, we hope, has snatched away one of the primary motives for child marriage.

A major consequence of this judgement is also its potential towards reducing India’s burden of maternal and infant mortality. There is a close causative link between child marriage and maternal, neo-natal and infant mortality along with stunting and malnutrition. Early marriage generally leads to early pregnancy. Twelve per cent of girls aged 11-19 are already mothers. We know that a child’s body is not adequately prepared for pregnancy or child birth, and risks to both the mother and infant’s survival are much higher. In addition, underweight mothers tend to give birth to underweight babies. Nearly 50 per cent of new-born deaths are caused due to complications arising out of low birth weight and premature delivery.

According to the National Family and Health Survey-4 (NFHS-4) nearly 50 per cent pregnant women in the age group 14 to 59 are anaemic. More than half of these women — in the age group 20-24 years — were married before they attained the age of 18 years, and nearly 27 per cent were anaemic. This has severe consequences for both maternal and infant mortality.

States and regions with high incidence of child marriage also show greater prevalence of maternal and infant mortality and morbidity. Madhya Pradesh, for instance, has the worst infant mortality of 47 deaths per 1,000 live births and also tops the list of states for the number of child marriages. Other states that display a similar pattern are Odisha, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Rajasthan among others.

In its judgment, the Supreme Court acknowledges the link between early marriage and the physical and mental well being of both mother and infant. It says, “the National Plan of Action for Children recognises that the early marriage of girls is one of the factors for neo-natal deaths; early marriage poses various risks for the survival, health and development of young girls and to children born to them and most unfortunately it is also used as a means of trafficking.”

Despite laws against child marriage being in place since 1929, and the legal age of marriage being declared as 18 for girls and 21 for boys under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, there are still 23 million child brides in the country. The recent judgment points to severe anomalies within the law which does not, in fact, ban child marriage outright but says that it is voidable at the option of the contracting party who is a child at the time of marriage and void only in certain circumstances. In addition, child marriages continue to be valid under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and Muslim Personal Law. This is a violation of the human rights of children — both boys and girls — with particularly negative consequences for the health, welfare and dignity of the girl child.

Child marriage is deeply entrenched in society and cannot be removed by the law alone. A few years ago, a district collector in Rajasthan told me how she got wind of child marriages taking place in a village but before she could stop it, they had actually travelled to another village and got over 50 child marriages conducted en masse.

Now that the apex court has rejected the arguments of the government of India, it is time for us to re-examine the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act and work together to get a definitive position from the government and the legislature to ensure that there is in fact a complete legal ban on child marriage which continues despite efforts such as Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao.

indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/supreme-court-sex-with-wife-below-18-years-rape-supreme-court-4914440/

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Dineshwar Sharma should be cautious in choosing his priorities in Kashmir

By Abhishek Saha

The State’s interlocutor’s concerns about online propaganda might be valid but it is only one of the multiple reasons ailing Kashmir currently and most of them are rooted in the real world itself.

In an interview to news agency PTI on Sunday, Dineshwar Sharma, former chief of the Intelligence Bureau, who was recently appointed as the Centre’s representative for talks in Kashmir, said that “countering false sloganeering and propaganda available online” will be on the top of his agenda.

Further into the interview, Sharma — appointed to initiate and carry forward a dialogue with elected representatives, various organisations and concerned individuals in Jammu and Kashmir — says that there are reports that Kashmiri youth were “getting radicalised by false online propaganda”.

It is not the first time that a representative of the State has mentioned that Kashmiris are getting swayed by online propaganda. In March, Union home minister Rajnath Singh said in the Lok Sabha that social media groups operating from Pakistan provoke Kashmiri youngsters to throw stones at security forces.

The security establishment in Kashmir too has time and again blamed the Internet and social media for fuelling the violence — and hence the recurrent gags on the Internet and a month-long ban on social media sites earlier this year.

Those who talk about “online propaganda” have never actually outlined specifically how it happens — except that some WhatsApp groups have been found to be used to mobilise protesters and often spread rumours.

A critical analysis of the content, perceived as problematic by the State and being shared widely in Kashmiri social media circles, reveals that the videos or photos are not necessarily “false” but attempts to capture alleged human rights violations of common Kashmiris and the wrongs of the armed forces.

For instance, the video of the now infamous “human shield” case — wherein a Kashmiri weaver was tied to a jeep by the army and driven through villages — was a genuine one which became a rallying point of protest against ‘atrocities’ by the security forces.

On the other hand, videos uploaded by militants can be rightly called “propaganda” material. But as several media reports have shown, Kashmiri youngsters have several other reasons to join the ranks of the militants — such as harassment by forces or being booked under controversial laws such as the Public Safety Act (PSA) — than being solely motivated by such videos. Sharma’s concerns about online propaganda might be valid but it is only one of the multiple reasons ailing Kashmir currently and most of them are rooted in the real world itself. The youth here are primarily “radicalised” by the violence happening here on a daily basis rather than through some forwarded WhatsApp message.

As the Supreme Court hears arguments on the repealing of Article 35A in Jammu and Kashmir on Monday, the Valley remains tense and the common man perceives it to be an attempt by the Centre to play around with the region’s special rights. The arrest of several separatist leaders and summoning of a prominent advocate and a university scholar regarding a “terror funding” case is seen by many as hitting below the belt.

Justice awaits the families of the 100-odd civilians killed in the unrest of 2016. While scores of youngsters, many of them bystanders and not protesters, blinded by pellets last year grapple in the dark, the State has made it clear that the use of pellet guns — which has been condemned widely —won’t stop in the strife-torn Valley. Such is the disaffection towards “Indian forces,” that widespread allegations were made by Kashmiris that it’s the “Indian agencies” which are behind the mysterious “braid-chopping” incidents.

Issues which actually trouble Kashmiris in the real world find a resonance in the virtual one — but it would be wrong to say that the proverbial root of all evil lies in the online world. There are a myriad of grievances in Kashmir that need healing — and those are in the real world. Hence, Sharma — the decorated officer who has served in Kashmir during the peak of militancy in the 1990s — should be cautious about choosing his priorities.

hindustantimes.com/analysis/dineshwar-sharma-should-be-cautious-in-choosing-his-priorities-in-kashmir/story-0fQj7yjafyVWGbM3hMPC4I.html

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Love, marriage: Don’t interfere

By Asian Age

It may have only been obiter dicta; but if a major decides to marry even a criminal, no one else has a say.

It was blindingly obvious, yet no one saw it clearly. During earlier hearings, the Supreme Court had not quite put its finger on the nub as it did Monday, when it said Hadiya, the woman at the centre of the “love jihad” row, was 24, and hence in a position to state if she married of her own free will, or not. The case got complicated due to the play of communal friction, but now should move quickly towards a denouement, as Hadiya was asked to clarify in open court on November 27 if she had indeed consented to marry Shafeen Jahan. The Kerala high court had curiously annulled the marriage and handed her over to her father, and a NIA investigation ordered by the Supreme Court before the bench, which included the Chief Justice, spotted the clearer path to justice.

It may have only been obiter dicta; but if a major decides to marry even a criminal, no one else has a say. The overriding principle is love trumps all as has been known through the ages. If an inter-religious romance became such a cause celebre, politicians must be blamed for portraying this as a communal conspiracy to convert Hindu women. If there are really 89 such cases in Kerala, suggesting a pattern of indoctrination and radicalisation as suggested by the NIA, investigators must bring out the truth. In this case, it’s for Akhila-Hadiya to say if she has chosen right. If people of all religions/castes agree their daughters have a right to marry men of their choice, we may even see the end of horrors like honour killings.

asianage.com/opinion/edit/311017/love-marriage-dont-interfere.html

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Enlightenment — The Only Revolution

By Swami Chaitanya Keerti

Osho has given over 200 discourses on it, and a large number of people have been reading and relishing them.

n India and abroad, Bhagwad Gita is read by most of the Hindus and the liberal followers of the other religions also. This holy book has a divine message of living a multi-dimensional life without renouncing the world. One can choose to be a devotee, a karmayogi, a warrior like Arjuna, and at the same time, can be in total surrender to God, not looking for any reward. For most of us, even this too may be difficult as we often become victims to our ambition and ego very easily. But still it is quite easy for a large number of people to understand Gita. Osho has given over 200 discourses on it, and a large number of people have been reading and relishing them. Thousands of people did throng to Osho’s public discourses at the open grounds of Mumbai, Ahmedabad, and Pune.

After these public discourses, Osho moved to his ashram in Pune and settled there. There he chose to talk on Ashtavakra Gita, calling it Mahageeta. There was no big crowd, just a couple of thousands of seekers.

There is an incidence in the life of Vivekananda. When he came to Ramakrishna his name was still Narendranath – later on Ramakrishna named him Vivekananda. As Narendranath, he was extremely argumentative, an theist, a rationalist. He wanted a proof for everything. He wanted the proof of God’s existence. Ramakrishna urged him to read out a few lines from a book Ashtavakra Gita lying there. He said to him: “You are young, you are still strong – read from the book lying there. Read a little but read it aloud to me.” Vivekananda read just three or four sutras and he started shaking, every cell of his body began trembling. He said, “I cannot read on.” Ramakrishna insisted, “Go ahead and read. What harm can there be in it? How can this book hurt you? You are young, your eyes are still fresh, and I am old, it is hard for me to read. I must hear this book – read it out to me.” It is said that Vivekananda kept on reading aloud from the book – and disappeared in meditation.

Osho concludes: Why did Ramakrishna ask that he read the Ashtavakra Gita out aloud to him? Because there is no purer statement of truth. If these words penetrate you, they will start awakening your sleeping soul. These words will fill you with ecstasy.

This is an inner revolution, a metamorphosis. Osho talks poetically on the famous dialogue between the ancient mystic Ashtavakra and King Janak. By the end of the dialogue, King Janak is enlightened. These profound discourses are aptly titled: Enlightenment—The Only Revolution.

asianage.com/opinion/oped/311017/mystic-mantra-enlightenment-the-only-revolution.html

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The great unifier

By M Venkaiah Naidu

India owes an immeasurable debt to Sardar Patel’s leadership, vision and pragmatism.

No country can ignore its heroes, the ones who shaped its destiny. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was one such iconic personality who shaped India’s destiny in a far-reaching manner. After India attained Independence, Patel fashioned the country’s political integration with the swiftness of a military commander and the deftness of a visionary leader.

Present-day India owes immeasurable debt to the vision, tact, diplomacy and pragmatic approach of the Sardar in preventing the Balkanisation of the country. He was instrumental in the merger of more than 560 princely states with the Union of India after the country’s partition. What makes this achievement very remarkable is that it was achieved without any bloodshed.

Adopting different approaches, as warranted by the situation, Patel gave friendly advice in some cases, persuaded the rulers to see reason in others and even used force as in the case of Hyderabad. It is remarkable that he fashioned a unified country at a time when the rulers of the princely states were given the option of joining either India or Pakistan or remaining independent.

The Nizam of Hyderabad nurtured ambitions of remaining independent of India and issued a firman to that effect. At the same time, he let loose razakars and even toyed with the idea of merging Hyderabad with Pakistan, although there was no geographical continuity between the two. Travancore also declared that it would remain independent and the Nawab of Junagarh announced accession to Pakistan.

Sardar Patel secured the accession of Junagarh in a swift action code-named “Operation Polo”. Hyderabad was integrated with the rest of India in just four days. What is popularly described as a “police action” to liberate and integrate Hyderabad commenced on September 13, 1948, and ended on September 17. September 17 is celebrated every year as “Hyderabad Liberation Day” in the city and in some areas of Maharashtra and Karnataka, which were parts of the erstwhile Hyderabad State.

In a masterful display of statesmanship, Patel ensured the smooth integration of the troubled domains by not allowing the situation to deteriorate into civil unrest. There was neither bloodshed nor rebellion as he went about the task of building a strong India with a missionary zeal. He said, “the safety and preservation of these states as well as of India demand unity and mutual cooperation between its different parts. By common endeavour we can raise the country to a new greatness while lack of unity will expose us to fresh calamities”.

Patel was the greatest unifier of India. There is, perhaps, no parallel in modern history to this achievement. Acknowledging the monumental contribution of Patel in nation building, Jawaharlal Nehru said, “History will call him the builder and consolidator of new India.”

His biggest asset was his down-to-earth disposition. He exemplified what the Father of the Nation had said about leadership: “I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles. But today it means getting along with people”.

When he returned to India on completing of his law studies in England, Sardar Patel gravitated towards Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent campaign against British rule. He was chosen by Gandhiji to lead the Kheda campaign. “Many were prepared to follow me, but I could not make up my mind as to who should be my deputy commander.Then I thought of Vallabhbhai,” Gandhiji said.

The trust that Gandhiji reposed in Patel was not misplaced. Gandhiji’s trusted lieutenant not only became an organiser par excellence but also a people’s leader. He earned the title of “Sardar” after spearheading a no-tax campaign by peasants at Bardoli in Gujarat. He also led the relief and rehabilitation operations when Gujarat was ravaged by floods and worked tirelessly during a plague outbreak in Ahmedabad.

Patel was also instrumental in the creation of the All India Administrative Services which he described as the country’s “Steel Frame”. In his address to the probationers of these services, he asked them to be guided by the spirit of service in day-to-day administration. He reminded them that the ICS was neither Indian, nor civil, nor imbued with any spirit of service.

His exhortation to the probationers to maintain utmost impartiality and incorruptibility of administration is as relevant today as it was then. “A civil servant cannot afford to, and must not, take part in politics. Nor must he involve himself in communal wrangles. To depart from the path of rectitude in either of these respects is to debase public service and to lower its dignity,” he had cautioned them on April 21, 1947.

The remarks he made during the Quit India Movement are also relevant today. He said: “We have to shed mutual bickering, shed the difference of being high or low and develop the sense of equality and banish untouchability. We have to live like the children of the same father”.

After he passed away, The Manchester Guardian commented on the role Patel played during the freedom struggle and after Independence: “Patel was not only the organiser of the fight for freedom but also the architect of the new state when the fight was over. The same man is seldom successful as a rebel and a statesman. Sardar Patel was the exception”.

It is unfortunate that there has been no proper recognition of Patel’s monumental contribution in unifying the country at its most critical juncture in history.

The invaluable contribution of Sardar Patel in building a modern and unified India needs to be remembered by every Indian as the country marches ahead as one of the largest economies in the world.

indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/sardar-vallabhbhai-patel-birth-anniversary-india-narendra-modi-bjp-4914433/

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Lessons from Kirkuk

By The Hindu

OCTOBER 31, 2017

The conflict that broke out in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk between Iraqi government troops aided by Shia militias and the Peshmerga, the military wing of Iraqi Kurdistan, this month is a reminder of the divisions that run deep in the country. Both government troops and the Peshmerga are part of the coalition that is fighting the Islamic State in Iraq. They are also American allies. The U.S. provides air cover in the war against the IS and offers military advice to Iraqi troops, besides supplying weapons. Likewise, the Peshmerga has received arms from the U.S., Germany, the U.K. and other western countries. The U.S. also has a consulate in Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan where hundreds of its diplomats and their families live. But neither the common American factor nor the shared interests in the war against terrorists has prevented the conflict in Kirkuk, that was captured by the Peshmerga from the IS in 2014. The alliance between the Kurds and Baghdad is tactical rather than strategic. In 2014, after the IS scored a series of military victories in Iraq, including in the cities of Fallujah, Ramadi, Kirkuk and Mosul, both Baghdad and Erbil were threatened by the prospect of IS advances. They set aside their historical differences and joined hands against a common enemy. But the IS is in retreat. Most of the cities it captured, including Mosul, Iraq’s second largest, have been freed. This receding IS threat has exposed cracks in the alliance.

More immediately, the Kurdish political leadership’s push for independence from Iraq has alarmed Baghdad. Masoud Barzani, President of Iraqi Kurdistan, wanted to mobilise the momentum created in the battle against the IS in favour of independence. Despite strong opposition from Baghdad and western capitals, Mr. Barzani went ahead with a referendum in late September, in which Kurds overwhelmingly voted for independence. Though the vote is not binding on the Kurdish regional government, it has undoubtedly strengthened Kurdish nationalist politics across borders. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi rushed troops to retake Kirkuk. Mr. Barzani’s move was politically counter-productive as he is not in a position to achieve independence for Kurdistan. Taking responsibility for the mess, he has announced he will step down as President in November. This actually aggravates the crisis. The new Kurdish leader may lack his charisma or authority but will have to deal with stronger nationalist aspirations. Baghdad has sent a tough message to Erbil by sending troops to Kirkuk: if the Kurds go ahead with plans to secede, it would invite a strong military response. The cracks in the coalition would be good news for the IS. The only country that could constructively intervene in the conflict is the U.S., which enjoys good ties with Baghdad and Erbil. It should mediate between the two sides on the Kurdish national question. Unless that is addressed, the chances for another civil war in Iraq remain high.

thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/lessons-from-kirkuk/article19951325.ece

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Whatever happened to rule of law?

By Robert Fisk

October 31, 2017 3:09 am

A profoundly important, unprecedented and dangerous decision has been taken by European leaders in the past few days. It’s not made as explicit as it should be – because our leaders are always careful to erect a bodyguard of verbiage and lies to protect them if something goes wrong – but it’s perfectly clear that they want any foreign fighters in Isis to be killed when they are found.

It’s not a question of whether they deserve to live or die – they have cut the throats of innocents, including my journalist colleagues, and they have raped women and enslaved children. We know that, and we are aware that their vicious cult has not yet ended. Isis is still alive. But what happened to justice, that staple foundation of all countries that believe in freedom, democracy, liberty? A few quotations to start with.

Here is the French minister of the armed forces, Florence Parly. “If the jihadis perish in this fight, I would say that’s for the best,” she said. Then we have the US envoy for the anti-Isis coalition, Brett McGurk. “Our mission is to make sure that any foreign fighter who is here, who joined Isis from a foreign country and came into Syria, they will die here in Syria. So if they’re in Raqqa, they’re going to die in Raqqa.”

And here is Britain’s own diplomatphilosopher and Tory minister Rory Stewart. “These are people who have essentially moved away from any kind of allegiance towards the British Government … they believe in an extremely hateful doctrine which involves killing themselves, killing others and trying to use violence and brutality to create an eighth century, or seventh century, state. So I’m afraid we have to be serious about the fact that these people are a serious danger to us, and unfortunately [sic] the only way of dealing [sic again] will be, in almost every case, to kill them.”

Now this statement by Stewart – normally a fairly sane television personality who can explain Middle Eastern history – is perfectly understandable, utterly lucid and totally deplorable. Stewart, Parly and McGurk are effectively calling for the execution of their citizens who have joined Isis. They don’t say this, of course. And the Germans have actually stated that any German citizens will have consular assistance if necessary – they, of course, have to avoid the SS smell for all the obvious reasons. But we are telling Iraqi soldiers and militiamen and Kurds and anyone else that they can kill British or French or US citizens who have joined the dark and wicked forces of Isis. Fine. No probs. Who cares to take them back?

And if we allowed Brits in Isis to come home, who knows how many hijackings and mass murders would take place in an attempt to free them from prison. But what happened to international justice? When George W Bush talked about bringing the bad guys to justice after 9/11, I wrote that I very much doubted if any justice would be coming Osama bin Laden’s way. And I was right. He was assassinated by the Americans.

And nobody, naturally enough, complained about it. Live by the sword, die by the sword. But bin Laden’s death – and the ocean of drone attacks that followed – gave a gently, dark signal that it’s OK to murder these bad guys. Forget about courts, evidence, trials, justice and the rest. Just obliterate them.

Who is going to complain? But we should complain about this wretched and despicable policy. For decades, we have been condemning the dictators of the Middle East for their savagery, for their drumhead courts and their mass hangings – and rightly so. But how can we condemn them now, when we are announcing, quite publicly, that we want our own citizens dead if they joined – or are believed to have joined, or might have joined, or are said to have joined – Isis. If we are now, in effect, calling for their execution, then we have no more right to lecture any tyrant about their wickedness. The Egyptians and the Saudis and the Syrians can now chop off heads or hang or slaughter anyone they want on the basis that the “only way of dealing” with them (“unfortunately”, of course) will be “to kill them”.

ow if a Brit chooses to fight and die in battle for a grotesque organisation like Isis, that’s his (or her) problem. But if captured, should we not “deal” – how I love Stewart’s phraseology – with them by administering real justice, locking them up forever if that’s the sentence, giving them their day in court, showing for all the world that we are not killers and that we have a higher morality than the murderers of Isis? Right now, the Egyptians are “disappearing” prisoners.

Last weekend, militants – which we can sensibly assume were Isis – massacred more than 50 police officers south-west of Cairo. It was a disaster which the Egyptians would like to cover up. The dead included two brigadier generals and 11 colonels. They were themselves trying to ambush the militants but it all went wrong, presumably because Isis have an informer inside the police. But when Isis members (or presumed Isis members) turn up dead on the streets of Egyptian cities in the coming days, are we in any position to talk to Field Marshal/President Sisi about justice? That’s how it goes, you see. First of all, we want our citizens dead if they joined Isis. Then we’ll want all our citizens who are “terrorists” dead, whether Isis supporters or not.

This can be extended to anyone who supports Hezbollah or the Palestinians or the Kurds or any minority which we hate or are encouraged to hate. And then anyone who has “moved away from any kind of allegiance towards the British Government” (whatever that actually means). Now I have to add that Stewart did mention “very difficult moral issues”. What would these “moral issues” be, I wonder? But we all know, surely.

It’s that we are crossing the line between justice and state encouragement of executions. If that’s the line we want to cross, well let’s say so clearly.

And if we don’t want to cross that line, let’s say so? Amnesty? Human Rights Watch? Haven’t heard from them yet? What’s going on?

thestatesman.com/opinion/whatever-happened-rule-law-1502520031.html

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Cry of the besieged soldier

By Hasha Kakar

October 31, 2017

A fortnight ago I had written about the ‘equivalence commission’. It is now back in the limelight, even before the earlier controversy had died. The previous commission formed in 2016, after the MoD issued a controversial letter degrading military officers’ rank structure, was tasked to establish equivalence between them and the civil cadre.

The commission had internal disagreements, with the military representative refusing to sign, as also the additional secretary heading the commission being moved out of the ministry. A recent press release by the MoD stated that the defence minister was re-establishing another commission on the same issue. Legally, the first commission itself was wrong in precedence. It was headed by an Additional Secretary, who stands twenty fifth in the Warrant of Precedence (WoP) issued by the Home Ministry and had as a member a Lieutenant General, who is twenty fourth in the WoP and hence senior.

Was it an intentional action by the MoD to insult the armed forces? Why was it accepted by the military? There are no answers and no clarifications. The armed forces have suffered a series of deprivations in recent times but being disciplined services maintained silence. Entitled rations, wrongly termed as free rations, were withdrawn for officers in peace stations and a meagre allowance granted in lieu, which service HQs are struggling to enhance. Furlough of two months, a facility meant to be taken in emergencies, has also been withdrawn, while in every other organisation leave without pay can be taken for upto six months.

The Prime Minister spends Diwali with soldiers in Gurez, addresses them, stating that armed forces members are a part of his family and the most respected community in the country, while the defence minister spends the same festival with troops in the Andamans. Simultaneously the government seeks to degrade its stature.

Does one deprive and degrade one’s own family? Such an irony is only possible due to three reasons. Firstly, the government seeks to befool the soldier, who has no voice yet performs all assigned tasks without so much as a whimper. Secondly, visits to troops by the political hierarchy is only a photoop meant for forthcoming elections, to garner serving and veteran votes. Thirdly, despite all claims, they have no control over their own government which is run by the bureaucracy while they remain just figureheads. The battle for Non-Functional Upgradation (NFU) continues in court, with the government desperately seeking measures to delay and blunt its release, solely for the military.

The Reddy commission, appointed to resolve OROP issues, had submitted its report to the finance minister over a year ago, yet it continues to gather dust, neither being released nor implemented. There are some issues which the defence minister must ponder over, prior to reconsidering ordering another commission. Is there any reason to order an equivalence commission, as a Warrant of Precedence already exists?

Is the MoD above the government of India that it requires a separate WoP? Are the armed forces incapable of correct decision making, even on military matters, that they require approvals of junior non-military cadre? The approach of the defence minister appears to be the opposite of what it should be. She should be seeking to amalgamate service HQs with the MoD, establishing a joint and more cohesive organisation, rather than diluting one to enhance powers of the other.

She should be aiming to induct more serving officers into the MoD to improve decision making, rather than enhancing existing trust deficit. If this equivalence exercise is intended to induct junior non-military officials into service HQs in place of senior uniformed vacancies, due to additional promotions granted to them, then the harm caused would be much more. The defence minister has neither justified her decision, nor is she likely to.

The NFU battle, now in its final stages was launched not by service HQs for the welfare of its own, but by an individual who felt that the uniformed had been unjustly treated. It was accepted by the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), whose decision the government chose to contest in the Supreme Court. The government even instructed the army’s Judge Advocate Branch (JAG), to depute its officers in uniform to support government counsel in the Supreme Court opposing the case, possibly aiming to convey that even the military is against it.

The ploy failed, compelling the government to seek alternate options. This while calling soldiers the most respected community, the government battles them in courts, solely to deny them their due, whether it is war-wounded disabilities, OROP or NFU. It ignores veterans battling for their rights by protesting for almost a thousand days now for the grant of a fair OROP and has them forcibly removed from Jantar Mantar. It fails to realize that a soldier retires between 35-40, as against other central services, who retire at 60. Hence with shorter service, his pensions would be lower, thus making OROP essential.

While the bureaucracy may be least bothered, the political leaders should be aware that depriving the military of its rights is impacting morale. Social media is abuzz with comments and complaints on the government’s action, at times even against the military’s senior hierarchy, but there seems to be no impact. The government is duty-bound to protect those who risk their lives daily for national security, which it is shirking knowing the military lacks a voice.

A gag order has been placed on the media – these contentious issues and even the veterans’ rally over the weekend was neither covered nor discussed. The veterans’ community, the sole voice of the soldier, stands by him in this battle.

They will continue raising their voice, employing every media including social, to inform the nation of the damage being caused to the soldier and his morale by the government. Impact is being felt and concerned citizens have begun raising their voice. The government must act now.

thestatesman.com/opinion/cry-besieged-soldier-1502520028.html

URL: http://newageislam.com/indian-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/complete-the-justice/d/113080




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