Bishamber Singh did not feel cold, the fire of patriotism kept him warm. He was fighting off the enemy on the icy peaks of East Ladakh. His weapon was less powerful than the enemy’s but his resolve and courage was stronger and many times more powerful. He was 28, built like an ox. His mother had brought him up with tales of valor and patriotism and as was customary in his community, one son always served in the armed forces. He was the chosen one. He fought not one but in three wars for his country and collected a chest full of medals. He was respected everywhere when he said he was in the army. Then he retired … He wasn’t very old, and suddenly he was getting just half the pay. As the various pay commissions rolled out, there were small increments but nothing that could significantly impact his life.
A few years later, when Bishamber Singh was probably 42, and most likely recently retired from the army, a boy was born just on the outskirts of Delhi. This boy’s parents probably struggled to send him to a school and he studied whatever he could. Probably an average student, he had a fascination for the police uniform. He managed to join the Delhi Police and that day was probably the best day of his life. He took pride in his uniform and expected everyone to treat him with respect…. But his enthusiasm soon waned. People pulled rank on him, spoke of connections in high places and movies made fun of him. His children felt no pride in talking about his profession and he couldn’t afford to buy them things that their classmates had. The frustration kept building up and he beat the criminal just a little harder, pushed people just a little harder and slowly just got hardened. Am just imagining here….
Their paths never crossed till yesterday, Aug 15, 2015. Bishamber Singh was sitting in protest at Jantar Mantar and the policeman was told to clear the area for the PM’s Indepedence day address. He, along with his colleagues just followed orders without thinking and tried clearing Jantar Mantar of those very people because of whom he remained safe !!!
How could the policeman pull off the medals on Bishamber Singh’s chest ? Sure orders have to be followed, but no one gives you the right to misbehave and insult an army veteran and that too when it is visible that he is an army veteran. Why a veteran, he is an 82 year old man and you can see it – treat him with respect. Have we lost that basic cultural nuance – respect for our elders ??? Looks like we have.
Yesterday was a sad Independence Day because of this incident and I was certainly hoping to see our PM say something or tweet something. We know he is not responsible for what happened and am glad MoS for home Kirrin Rijjiju asked the Delhi police not to disturb the veterans. But the whole incident has left a bad taste in many mouths. Modi Ji, you are a different leader, not like the ones we have had for so many years and we wish you find a way to restore the faith of the veterans. OROP am sure will get implemented, but this incident needs to be addressed. If you remain silent on this issue, many of us will feel a dent in our hope of a different leadership and government.
Bishamber Singh Ji, salute to you and your kind… And hopefully we will raise a generation that respects the elders and values the armed forces. To the policeman who yanked the medals off – what will you tell your child ? That you pushed an 82 year old man and took his medals off because he was silently protesting ?? Imagine how far you will fall in his or her eyes … Well your child has probably seen the TV coverage and you have already fallen from the pedestal. Find a way to apologise and genuinely so.
Am no pessimist, but these incidents just show us the dark side of our upbringing and culture. We, the civil society cannot keep laying the blame on the politicians’ and film actors’ doors – how are we bringing up our children and who are we voting into power ? Egomaniacs as Chief Ministers and for 60 years we let things rot. We reap what we sow … So sow what you want to reap. Parents and teachers – bring up a better generation.