The Soldier: The Man Who Dies That Others May Live
History is a record of the activities of the warriors. In modern parlance, the warrior is equated with a soldier. The soldier is one of the least remembered and unsung heroes in the world. Many think his death, which is, in reality, is a sacrifice is something that was the lot of the soldier.
I first realized the poignancy of all this when I was posted to the Indian Far East and went to Kohima. I remember driving in my jeep to the war graves, meticulously kept close to Kohima. As I saw the graveyards with beautiful gardens all around I was struck by the fact that these men had died, not knowing whether their deaths were in vain or they were successful.
Lord Tennyson's famous poem; the charge of the light brigade has one line that aptly sums up the lot of the soldier. Tennyson wrote on the charge of the British Cavalry against the Russian guns in the Crimea war, "it was not to reason why but to do and die".This has become an emotive phrase and aptly sums up the lot of the soldier.
I walked around the graveyard and looked at the tombstones there were the names of the soldiers who had died neatly engraved but one tombstone read "A soldier unknown but to God."This was the burial of a soldier who had not been identified and there may have been tens of such men whom nobody will remember.
A cynic may say that a soldier died because he was supposed to die and also because this is a profession that he chose. This would be a very fallacious way of looking at the death of a soldier. This man has died because others maybe thousands may live.
The saddest part is that the soldier who dies does not know whether his death was in vain or the objective was achieved. There was hand-to-hand fighting between the Japanese Imperial Army and the Indian Army at Kohima. No quarter was given and none expected. ˜Hundreds died but the Japanese soldiers who died there would never know whether the siege of Kohima was a success and the Indian soldiers who died will never know that the Japanese Imperial Army was pushed back at the gates of India in this momentous battle.
The lot of the soldier is laid down in history. He shoulder's alarms and the end is the graveyard or the crematorium. People who are lucky to live may spare a thought for the soldier who makes this possible.
Sacrifice and Remembrance
The bravery and sacrifices of Indian troops have been acknowledged by the armies and peoples of the Allied nations on whose soil they fought. 74,187 Indian soldiers were killed in World War I. The outstanding valor of Indian soldiers got acknowledged when the British, decided to bestow the highest gallantry award in war — the Victoria Cross — to sepoy Khudadad Khan. That set a precedent and 11 more Indian soldiers were awarded the Victoria Cross.
Seven war memorials dedicated to Indian troops killed in various operations in various countries during World War I were built within a few years after the war by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC).
Two of them were built in New Delhi, India. The famous majestic India Gate has the names of the 74,187 Indian soldiers killed in various battles of World War I etched on all of its walls. The second one in India was Teen Murti, recently re-named Teen Murti-Haifa Chowk, and is a memorial to the Indian Cavalry Brigade which liberated Haifa.
The other five are Chattri, at Brighton, UK; Zehrensdorf Indian Cemetery, Germany; Neuve-Chapelle Indian Memorial, France; Haifa War Memorial, Israel, and Pieta Military Cemetary, Malta.
In World War II the Indian soldier makes a bigger contribution and almost 2,500,000 men don the uniform to fight for the allies. Memorials to them are dotted all over the world.
A strange paralysis, however, came over the Congress government once it came to power in 1947. This government got independence on a platter and completely ignored the sacrifice of the soldier's in the battle for India.
It took 70 years and the arrival of Narendra Modi for the government of India to begin to acknowledge the contribution of the soldier. Modi is the first Indian prime minister in Indian history who visited the War Memorials in Israel and France. He has also been instrumental in commissioning the War Memorial in Delhi.
We must all remember that the Indian soldier or for that matter any soldier in the world fights for a cause and it is the cause that is important. A soldier dies and goes away but that does not mean that his death is meaningless. Every soldier who sacrificed his life for a cause must be honored.
There is a lot of respect for the soldier in the west but in India, the Congress government led by Nehru never acknowledged the role of the soldier and the Indian state failed to realize that the soldier is the biggest stakeholder in the unity of India.
The advent of Narendra Modi has changed all this to a degree but there is still a lot to be done so that the memory of the soldier in India is enshrined forever.
Sometimes, I wonder why the soldier must die. I have really no explanation for it. All I can think is what Lord Krishna said. He said," not a leaf moves without my will".This is the essence of the song divine; the Gita, which the Lord imparted to Arjuna just before the famous battle of Kurukshetra.
Perhaps the end-all of a soldier's life in war is the cemetery or the cremation ground, but we who are alive can appreciate that soldiering is a profession that must be held in the highest esteem. I am convinced that all soldiers who died in action will end up with the Gods. Let us pray for them.