Why doesn’t the Army name all Indian martyrs?
The recent public ceremony honouring the martyrs of the 1962 war, 50 years after the event, ought to prompt many more such acts. Indians deserve to know the names of all Indian armed forces and security forces personnel who have been killed or are missing presumed dead since independence.
The military high command holds the information. At the army, the information should be with the branch of the Adjutant General. But it’s a shame that these names are not publicly listed. It’s almost as if there is a negativity about honouring our war-dead.
Anit Mukherjee, an ex-Indian army officer, who is now an academic working in the field of military affairs, tried out find out the number of security force personnel killed in Jammu and Kashmir, he revealed during a talk he delivered last week at the King’s India Institute in London on ‘Absent Dialogue: The Crisis in Civil-Military Relations in India.’
In a paper published in India Review in 2009 he wrote the following:
“The costs of battling Pakistani-trained and, later, Pakistani militants have been borne mainly by the security forces. Since the outbreak of the Kashmiri insurgency in 1990, including casualties from the Kargil war, approximately 5,000 members of the Indian security forces have been killed. The majority of the deaths (over 65 percent) occurred after 1998, when insurgency in the valley shifted from indigenous roots to acquire its current pan-Islamic jihadi characteristics.”
He obtained the figure from data posted in Indian Home Ministry’s annual reports and it was corroborated by the Indian army’s website honouring its fallen soldiers. It used to be accessible via http://www.mha.nic.in and http://indianarmy.nic.in/martyrs. But now the army webpage has been taken down.
According to him, both the Defence Ministry and the Army have refused to declassify documents pertaining to the 1962 war, let alone any relating to the more recent conflicts, such as the IPKF operation in Sri Lanka. In contrast, the British military not only names every fallen or wounded soldier in Afghanistan but these names are prominently published and broadcast by every major British media outlet.
This Indian reluctance, says Mukherjee in his Absent Dialogue paper, may be related to criticism about the armed forces’ perceived lack of preparedness.
“It also has deeper historical resonance – with the army outgunned in Sri Lanka in the late ’80s, Kashmiri militants possessing superior radio-sets vis-à-vis the Indian Army, whispers of Israeli technicians providing critical support to the air force during the Kargil war and armoured units being ‘blind’ at night during Operation Parakram in 2001-02. In fact, the Kargil Review Committee, the Group of Ministers report and numerous standing committees on defence allude to the lack of defence preparedness and its corollary, military effectiveness, both directly and indirectly.
“The capability of the armed forces also has consequences for the type of power India aspires to be.”
This is a matter that every Indian should be concerned about – because honouring a nation’s war-dead cannot and should not be the exclusive preserve of bureaucrats in the army or the ministry of defence. In a democracy, it is a people’s right.