Ashok Chakra, by telegram?

(.) THE PRESIDENT IS PLEASED TO APPROVE THE AWARD OF THE ASHOK CHAKRA TO YOUR LATE SON CAPTAIN HARSHAN R. WHO MADE THE SACRIFICE IN THE PERFORMANCE OF HIS DUTY TO UPHOLD THE SOVEREIGNTY AND INTEGRITY OF OUR GREAT NATION(.) WHILE SHARING YOUR GRIEF, PLEASE ACCEPT MY HUMBLE FELICITATIONS(.) VIJAY SINGH DEFENCE SECRETARY

Thus read the telegram of 14 August 2008 addressed to Captain Harshan’s father, stating that his son had been awarded India’s highest peacetime gallantry award. Incidentally, Captain Harshan is the youngest awardee of the Ashok Chakra.

If this is the way the nation treats its heroes, there is something drastically wrong about us. From the language of the telegram to the mode of delivery, there is nothing that befits a brave soldier or a nation’s grateful recognition of his gallantry.

The language is typical officialese – a formal and obscure style, that reeks of a bygone British colonial era. Replace “the President” with “H.R.H. the Queen” and “the great nation” with “the Crown”, and the writing would make greater sense. The President should not “be pleased to approve the award” of India’s highest peacetime gallantry award; she should at least be “proud to award” the Ashok Chakra. The nation can certainly find and afford a better drafter for the message than the current one.

Why is the telegram not personally from the President? Or the Prime Minister or at least the Defence Minister? They are the highest symbols of the Republic and the elected leaders of the nation. This is the least courtesy that a nation can offer to its highest heroes. If the status of the initiator is immaterial, then why the defence secretary as the signatory of the telegram? Why not let a clerk in the defence ministry sign the telegram?

This is not a harangue hellbent on nitpicking the technicalities or externalities of the award. Let us not forget that the gallantry award is in itself a symbol. It symbolises grateful commendation and recognition of the soldier by the entire nation and is a source of pride, not only for the soldier’s immediate family, but also to his comrades and innumerable brothers in uniform. At another level, it acts as a motivation to others in the line of duty and provides a sense of gratification to the organisation. It boosts the morale of the average man on the street and reinforces his belief in the armed forces of this nation. The seriousness and decorum of the procedure is a testimony to the importance of the award and reflects on the respect shown to the earlier awardees.

Does the insensitive approach to the award and callousness of its observances by the government bely the importance our society places on values like valour, courage, bravery and national pride? Or is the government taking the cue from the erosion of such values in the larger society?

Whatever may be the case, a big salute from all of us at the INI to all the gallantry award winners! And a very happy Republic day to all the readers of this blog.

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6 Responses to Ashok Chakra, by telegram?

  1. Shishir January 26, 2008 at 1:47 am #

    it is indeed very disheartening to read the manner in which our national heroes are treated. One would expect that the brave soldiers who lay their lives to defend our country deserve nothing short of national honour. Sadly, the politics of today is reduced to absymally low degree.

    I’m curious to know if this is recent change or has this been the case for long now. I don’t think so.

  2. Bharat Sharma January 26, 2008 at 10:12 am #

    It would have been better if the Chief had sent this telegram, instead of the Defence Secretary. What is a Secretary? Let us not forget that Chief is after all a General; where as Secretary is just a Secretary. The lopsided hierarchical orders also need to be corrected. The Chiefs must get their rightful place and authority

  3. Pragmatic January 26, 2008 at 10:27 am #

    Bharat:

    I disagree to a great extent. The COAS is the head of the Army and the Defence secretary is the representative of the government. The lowest level that it could be send at should be the Defence minister.

    BTW the army is itself doing no better. Lance Naik Sanjay Kumar was awarded the PVC in Kargil and he was promoted by his unit to a Havildar. The Army has demoted him back to a Lance Naik quoting rules. He is so disgusted that he wants to quit the Army. [TOI Delhi ed., 23 January 08]

    IMHO that there is not much difference between our politicians, bureaucrats and Generals (or Admirals or Air Marshals). The current state of our armed forces is a testimony to the combined results of their vision, ability and efforts (or lack of it).

    Shishir: Thanks. I think the procedure is a remnant of the colonial era. They haven’t even thought about changing it.

  4. XYZ January 26, 2008 at 9:22 pm #

    One of the core strength of the Armed Forces is MMS – Management Misinformation System. One of the MMS is ‘Blame it on Rio’ (netas & babus). Do you really think that the IA was kept in dark when the telegram was issued by DS???

  5. rajiv January 30, 2008 at 9:56 am #

    Who cares about soldiers anyway. They are expendables as viewed in India. Either taken as people who are fed, clothed and paid whatever can be afforded or remarked as ‘son – in -laws’ of the Government. This be the sensibility in our country then what more can be expected. Be happy, India sure is progressing.

  6. Thham Khali February 2, 2008 at 9:52 pm #

    Hi all,
    Why we always blame the civilian counterparts for all the ills we are facing.It is our own leadership who has shown them the way and opened the doors to disgrace the soldier wherever possible.Do we have any respect or regards for a fellow officer who has been overlooked for promotions at Lt Col Level .Now this is what the civilians see and react to, the same way.Just too bad!

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