An IDC Analysis

New Delhi, 20 Sep 2015

CiviL - military divide ─ Mind the gap

Hugh & Colleen Gantzer

17 September 2015

[The OROP crisis highlights the long-simmering distrust between the government and the defence services. This is dangerous. Seemingly little things can trigger disaffection because the world view of the civilians is opposed to that of the defence personnel.]

THE Pakistan Army originated in the Indian Army, their bureaucrats and politicians were once ours. And yet, a breakdown of relations between them has led to terrible consequences. 

Virtually the same thing happened in Myanmar. 

Servicemen, of all nationalities,   believe that politicians are driven by a hunger for power; bureaucrats by a thirst for the privileges of tenure in office. 

Similarly, netas and babus, worldwide, are convinced that Servicemen are uniformed dolts, fit only to carry out orders and become cannon fodder. 

The OROP imbroglio is the result of these skewed perceptions. 

This is not a new problem. 

Warriors of many societies, throughout history, tended to associate with other like-minded people. They were the artisans of war as others were specialists in construction, copper crafting, medicine or worship. 

Professionals tended to cluster together, share technical secrets, intermarry and form themselves into guilds. 

In the late Vedic period in our land, these professional guilds coalesced into exclusive castes. This proud exclusivity is the source of the problem. 

Defence personnel have evolved into an exclusive guild, a jati. Their cohesion is insured by self-contained, sequestered, environments, adherence to revered customs and traditions, and unquestioning loyalty to their comrades. When your life depends on others, trust is obligatory. It cannot be bought because no one will put a price on his or her life. 

This was brought into sharp focus during one of the annual cruises organised for Members of Parliament by the Indian Navy. 

An MP asked one of our officers, “For a poor country like ours, don't you think you are being paid too much?” 

The Lieutenant smiled at the politician “What price do you put on your life, sir?”  

The neta was taken aback. 

“How can I put a price on my life? How can anyone?” 

The young officer nodded, “Exactly. When your life is threatened by an enemy, we put our lives on the line to protect you. My salary is your life insurance, sir”. 

The MP smiled wanly and waddled away. 

Service personnel face frequent transfers, retire young and are unable to put down their roots long enough to acquire the wealth of their peers in other professions. 

They have had to find another ballast to give purpose to their lives: honour. 

They are sustained by the driving power of honour. 

The Japanese samurai had their bushido code, “the way of the warrior”, valuing honour more than life. 

Rajputs had a similar code. 

When Rajput warriors faced certain defeat, their women and children immolated themselves, while the men rushed out armed and naked welcoming the glory of death on the battlefield as a matter of martial honour. 

They were not paid to die: they were inspired to die. 

Such traditions gave rise to guilds of professional fighters, eventually forming the Kshatriya caste of hereditary warriors.   

The OROP imbroglio is an auto-immune affliction born out of the guild-caste stratification of our society. 

The British structured their Indian Army on such variations. 

The mores of our Armed Forces glorify these distinctions,while widening the gap between servicemen and civilians. 

This has also given rise to a conflict of perceptions.  

The Defence Services tend to see the world in terms of black and white, right and wrong. 

There is no time for doubts on the battlefield. 

Their civilian counterparts, however, spend their lives adjusting and compromising. 

It is difficult for one to understand the other, or not to have a mutual contempt for each other. 

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