Spirit of salvation of empowered citizen warriors in the Covid era

As India returns to a semblance of normalcy, some heartwarming stories shine through the veil of sadness and despair. Three examples of directors immediately spring to mind: Iqbal Singh Chahal in Mumbai, Gagandeep Singh Bedi in Chennai and Dr Rajendra Bharud in Nandurbar, who have decided to take responsibility and discover their legacy.

In the parlance of the army, they have chosen to be the commanders and “Tigers” of their domains. The mantra of the LBS Academy should be: “Every DC must be Tiger”. The challenge, of course, is whether politicians will give them space? The magnitude of Covid’s altruistic yodhas (warriors) efforts require many more columns to document them.

Stories of oxygen langars, gold donations for medical facilities and such initiatives keep faith in decline. For the moment, a collective and reverent salute will be in order. It will be more appropriate to objectively introspect our priorities: do we need more statues and religious shrines? Or should we first repair health, skills building and education?

It was indeed heartwarming when after the tsunami of December 26, 2004, the then Prime Minister of India announced that India would not accept foreign aid for disaster relief. The statement

was an affirmative expression of the intention to be a net provider of disaster relief and security, in a regional context.

This particularly resonated with our generation as we had observed a mandatory, weekly “quick meal skip”, at an impressionable and tender age of 10. That was the call of former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, as the nation faced a grain crisis and was literally living “from boat to mouth”.

As help streams in from everywhere again, it is a brutal and crass reality check. It is ironic that the post-tsunami declaration was made by probably one of the most humble PMs. This claim was followed by a quest for the seat of the UN Security Council, flirtations with groups like the BRICS, and beatings often well above our weight class. Primarily, fueled by our own unscientific “jugaads”, more importantly, hope and wishful thinking, replacing politics and strategy.

Event management and acronyms have distracted us from hard and meaningful work.

As families desperately searched for beds, oxygen, and even some decent last rites, we saw the most agonizing display of profiteering and shameless racketeering. Who are they and why do they survive? Most of them are so called “fixers”, supported by our politicians and their ilk.

Can a nation aspiring to be “Vishwa Guru” (world leader) allow such corruption and degeneration of our moral DNA? Will they ever be repaired? Not until every Indian decides to be a “Jagruk Hindustani,” or a conscious and responsible Indian.

Zero tolerance and the social ostracism of profiteers is the way to go.

The government autopsy is warranted, but most important is the introspection and collective audit by RWAs (Residents’ Welfare Associations) and Panchayats to rebuild our social capital. Spiritual gurus should resurface and alter their teachings with good science, evidence-based inquiry, and social service.

It is time to be “Karma Yogis”.

The concept of citizen warriors was brought to the fore in our fight to defeat Pakistan’s conception of spreading the arc of LoC terrorism beyond Akhnoor to Gurdaspur on the border with Punjab. The evil plot is to include the districts of Jammu, Kathua and Samba (in the former state of Jammu and Kashmir). Pakistan chooses to classify this colonized section of 193 km of the international border (IB), as a working border under the pretext that the whole of the former State of J&K is unstable.

This shallow 12 to 20 km river corridor provides infiltration routes and high visibility targets over NH, connecting Kashmir to the mainland.

Multiple streams with tall grass and tunnels are a nightmarish scenario for a back infiltration grid. All the while, the logical suggestion of shifting attention to the lateral depth of Dhar-Udhampur languishes. It will be interesting to observe the route of the new Delhi-Amritsar-Katra highway. Will he avoid vulnerable corridors, or will spirituality and lobbies take precedence over strategy and geography?

Pakistan has orchestrated several attacks on security establishments in Samba, Sanjuwan, Janglot and Kathua in this section. The infiltration also transgressed Sector IB with attacks on Dinanagar and Pathankot. The hero of this story is a simple carpenter, named ‘AK’ from a border village only 8 km from IB. He saw three suspicious-looking strangers sitting near a culvert during his early morning milk delivery routine.

While most will avoid such situations, AK went to the nearest Territorial Army unit and volunteered to guide them on his bike. This culminated in a fierce encounter in Arnia on November 26-27, 2014, and the neutralization of four feared terrorists, en route to Samba, for greater chaos.

AK, a true CW (or nagrik yodha), is now in uniform. This action inspired initiatives like the WhatsApp sarpanche group to report such activity to the security gate.

Another vigilant railway worker avoided an accident by hijacking a train when he discovered that the track had been tampered with by terrorists, who then attacked the Dinanagar police station. AK and the railroad employee both received the well-deserved Army Commander’s Commendation.

Another story should be noted, that of a soldier from the RR battalion, on leave near Samba. NCO, while picking up candy for a relative’s wedding early in the morning, took two terrorists in his van. He reported but only in the evening, giving the terrorists time to hide. These terrorists, part of a group that attacked the Rajbagh police station in Kathua, then targeted the Samba military post the next day.

The bottom line is that you don’t need a uniform to be a citizen warrior.

Mandatory caution is in order. Such initiatives are complementary to the police and do not constitute an excuse to form self-defense groups like the anti-Romeo squads. The challenge is not to cross the thin line between the two. “Hosh” in any case must replace the misguided “Josh”.



The opinions expressed above are those of the author.


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