Read a very disturbing article in today's 'The Hindu' titled, 'Notice to Centre in Kargil martyr case'. I have read about the traumas and sufferings of army men, but what moved me in this case was the determination of the late Captain's family to pursue the case further, and even to the International Court of Justice. Before I go any further, a brief about the issue (an excerpt from the article itself):
Capt. Saurabh Kalia of the 4 Jat Regiment was the first Indian Army officer to observe and report large-scale intrusion by the Pakistani Army into the Indian side of the Line of Control in the Kargil sector of Jammu and Kashmir.
Capt. Saurabh Kalia and five soldiers were captured on May 15, 1999 and were in captivity for over 22 days. The bodies were handed over to the Indian authorities on June 9, 1999.
The autopsy report of the Captain and the five soldiers revealed extreme torture including cigarette burns, pierced ear drums with hot rods and chopped off limbs and private organs before finally shooting them dead.
The article made me cringe from the inside. I keep wondering how people can be this violent in their approach to their fellow-men. No one can conclude whether wars are good or not; it depends on the situation. If others intrude into your country and the life and liberty of your country men are at risk, then definitely a war is unavoidable. But the costs are immense. I cannot but imagine how difficult the lives of the people who are directly involved in these wars would be. Just think of the recent American attack on Iraq. How much ever justifications you can give in support of the war, but is it possible replace the lives of all those martyrs who lived and died for their country?
To talk about the Iraq war, let me tell you, I have tried to understand both sides of the story; the supporting and the opposing arguments. It's true that the condition of the people under the tyranny of Saddam Hussain was too miserable. Saddam's intentions were centered around gaining personal wealth and cementing his throne. There are people, including many journalists, who still justify the war based on their judgments and observations. Also true that Saddam's possession of the so-called 'weapons of mass destruction' was just another reason for the US to attack Iraq. The counter arguments say that the West was more interested in Iraq's oil than on the prosperity of its people, which is also true. But the hard fact is that the people of Iraq suffered then, they still suffer. To add to that are the lives of millions of people who were killed in the bloodshed.
I feel that one should understand both sides of the story before coming to a conclusion on any issue. In his autobiography, Hitch-22, Christopher Hitchens comes up with some logical supporting arguments for the Iraq war, based on his own personal experiences in the pre-war Iraq. But I still feel for the people of Iraq and the great men who knowingly laid out their lives for their country in the war that entailed. On a similar note, the reason I read Hitler's Mein Kampf was as an attempt to understand what Hitler must have gone through while carrying out all that he did to the world. I had already read lot many articles about the Hitler's doings, including Anne Frank's innocent and rather touching depiction of her family's life in exile during Hitler's time. Then I realized that each of these persons have had a strong reason and conviction to do what they have done. In fact, I even feel that the people who do the wrong, have more conviction to begin with, that the ones who try to prevent it or stop it. And this strong belief is what drives these men of terror. It's amusing that some of the best lines that I have noted down from the books I have read is indeed from 'Mein Kampf'. In a way, I even admit that I support some of the Hitler's arguments. You will too, if you read his book, and try to understand the troubles he had gone through to get where he reached. I am not supporting his deeds, I just want to convey that Hitler was damn hardworking, a great orator and had really strong conviction about what he was doing and why he was doing it. For instance, below are some of the lines that I have noted down from Hitler's autobiography, 'The Mein Kampf':
The majority can never replace the man. The majority represents not only ignorance, but also cowardice. And just as a hundred blockheads cannot equal one man of wisdom, so a hundred poltroons are incapable of any political line of action that requires mental strength and fortitude.
The aspect that made the most striking impression on me and gave me grounds for serious reflection was the manifest lack of any individual responsibility in the representative body. The Parliament passes some act or decree that may have the most devastating consequences, yet nobody bears responsibility for it. Nobody can be called to account for it. For surely, one cannot say that a government discharges its responsibility when it retires after having brought about a catastrophe.
People like Hitler and Saddam do come to this world more often than the world could take them. Nature has it that just like the great men who live and die here, some deadly humans would also live and die here; the world would just have to deal with that. But I still wonder, how anyone can be so heartless to be able to mutilate and cause so much of pain to others? For example, the army men and the umpteen innocent people were just doing their jobs, they are just part of the big picture and are being controlled by someone. Mutilating these men and killing them in gruesome ways does not solve anything. Humanitarian consideration is all I'm asking for. And these kinds of war stories make us realize the gravity of the fact that rising terrorism is posing an unimaginable threat to the safety of everyone around us.
Is it our incapability that the international community has not been able to strictly advocate a humanitarian consideration for the prisoners of war? We do have international laws and treaties ratified at the Geneva conventions, especially the third Geneva Convention related to the treatment of prisoners of war, but I feel that we are lacking on the execution front. Strict action against any violation of the International Humanitarian law would act as a deterrent to some extent, but again, for as long as there are countries that have still not ratified some of the protocols at the Geneva Conventions or the ones that very tactfully sidestep the ratified treaties to benefit them, it becomes all the more difficult to ensure compliance. Pressurizing the countries to ensure faster ratification and taking action in case of violations should definitely be the right step forward. It's disheartening to note that despite all the attempts by the international community, brave soldiers have to face such horrific acts. Do these countries even lack basic human values and concern for human lives?
I do realize, though sadly, that some countries do not value human lives, especially when they are blinded by hatred. There is no solution to such problems, the change should come from within. In his book Catch-22, Joseph Heller comes up with a witty description of the lives of some soldiers, their anxieties and pretensions. It is a beautiful book, one of my personal favorites depicts the life of American soldiers during the World War. Even though the book is meant to be on a lighter note, one cannot help but pick up the nuances from the descriptions and extract reality from the witticism. It seems ironic to me that when there are people struggling with their lives at stake in the defense forces, we, the B-School students are haggling over salaries during the placement season. We want the profiles of our choice, lives of luxury, quick money and what not! Makes me realize, we are simply over reacting and expecting too much from our lives here. Our lives are too cozy and comfortable to be even comparable to the lives of many others, but who is to realize that.
How many of us, today's youth, would enthusiastically join the defense forces? We want our liberty, our comfortable life, and the best of everything. But when it comes to getting dirty and doing something, we all step back and let the others do the job. I still cannot come to terms with the kind of treatment the brave souls receive at the hands of the foreign defense forces. I shudder at the thought. I just want to pray for their souls and hope that their brave souls rest in peace. Let's hope people become more civilized in the way they treat their fellow-men, and pray that the lives of the many who fight for our nation or any others do not meet with the same fate as Capt. Saurabh Kalia.
Despite all the enmity and hatred, we Indians, we do not treat our prisoners of war the way you do, because we realize that men are just objects in the hands of destiny, they just play their part as assigned to them by their master. None of this is their fault, it is the situation that has made them do what they have done. We understand that just like our brothers and sisters, these men also have a family waiting for them in their own country.
My humble request to the captors, please kill them if you must, but do not torture our brothers and sisters.