ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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More, Not Less of Politics

It is argued that the armed forces should not “dabble” in politics (“Politicising the Military,” EPW, 19 September 2015). It is believed that this is the way to ensure civilian control over the military and avert a military takeover. Yet, the armed forces exercise veto power over withdrawal of troops from “Disturbed Areas” and removal of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA). This is military rule in areas considered to constitute India, and confirms that “war is continuation of politics.” Besides, the politics of the rulers dominates the armed forces. The soldiers sent to Naga areas in the 1950s had racial overtones to their campaign which was seen as a way to ward off China. In Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), for decades, the largely non-Muslim force deployed against the Muslims of J&K turned into a laboratory for Hindu communalisation. That the Babri Masjid demolition campaign coincided with military suppression in J&K cannot be missed. All this is politics.

So the question is not of “politicization,” rather it is why a modern republic is stuck to an antiquated system inherited from the colonial masters which creates a two “glass system,” one for officers and another for soldiers. Persons below the officer rank (PBOR) comprise nearly 98% of the ex-servicemen. While the officers’ complaint finds its way into the media, not least because they are “People Like Us,” there is disquiet and outrage at the PBOR raising their own set of demands. From 2 to 6 August, an organisation, the Voice of All-India Ex-Servicemen Society (VESS), sat on a parallel agitation insisting that the interests of the PBORs and commissioned ­officers are different. Their complaint was that the pension for jawans is calculated as per government rules on a pro rata basis because the jawans do not meet the service precondition of 33 years. Thus, they receive only 40% of the pension they claim they ought to get, because it is in the very nature of their job that they have to retire after 17 years between 35 and 40, in order to keep the fauj young. The relationship carries on post-retirement and hierarchies continue to matter.

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