Monday, August 3, 2009

Colour of a martyr’s blood- Vikram Batra by Maj Gen Raj Mehta

Dear Sir,

The recent desecration and belittling of the sacrifices made by our martyrs at Kargil, by a standing MP has upset the soldiering fraternity as well as their dependents and the nation at large. Using Vikram Batra as a point of reference, I had written an article for publication on the oped page of The Tribune; not as a middle; in the belief that rather more number of readers browse the oped page than they do browsing middles.
The article has been published today and the link to original post click me will take the reader to it. Also reproduced below for easy reading.
May I request you to allow its replication in RMS and perhaps in the RMS blog that Col Kanagaraj runs so well as a key member of your team. The aim is to let your readership know that we care, each in his own way. I speak for the ESM fraternity at large.

Warm regards,
Maj Gen Raj Mehta (Retd)

Colour of a martyr’s blood by Maj Gen (retd) Raj Mehta
It is July 26, 2009 — another hot, humid, rainless day in the tricity. I am back home after a round of golf, followed by attendance with my better-half at a moving, well-conducted public function at the imposing Major Sandeep Sankhla memorial at Panchkula, by the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement, to pay homage to the Kargil dead and injured.

Restless, my thoughts wander... unaffected by the stifling heat, to the chill winds, the icy fastnesses of the brooding, gaunt mountains that overlook Dras, Kargil and Batalik.

Ten years ago, 527 soldiers died in those unforgiving mountains; another 1,334 were wounded; some reduced to mortifying stumps; caricatures of once erect, alert, combative, dignified soldiers — all because they swore deathless allegiance to the idea of India; of upholding the sovereignty of their country at the cost of death or permanent maiming.

They swore allegiance with passion, at times with prescience and quiet acceptance of grim reality, of either planting the tricolour on their objective; or returning with their bodies wrapped in it.

The TV channels have been going ballistic covering the 10th anniversary of the famous victory. The newspapers speak of the need to learn lessons from the mistakes of 1999.

This is intelligent, thoughtful stuff. What rankles the rank and file, numbs the nation are the comments of a member of Parliament, who opines that that “Kargil isn’t a thing to be celebrated. The war was fought within our territory. We didn’t even come to know when the Pakistani army crossed over and built bunkers inside our territory...”

My thoughts are overtaken by the darkness that surrounds me. I light a candle and hold vigil over its flickering flame, as ex-servicemen and citizens are doing all over India, in honour of those who died in those trying days when Kargil happened. Yet again, my mind returns to memories of the past...

It was past the witching hour. My time was up. Though still in uniform, I had just retired after 38 years in uniform; had ‘hung up my spurs’ with a heavy heart. With the majestic Dhauladhars as a backdrop, I stood outside the just refurbished War Memorial in Yol Cantonment, near Dharamsala, addressing an audience of serving and retired soldiers, their ladies and a few, distinguished gentry.

Amongst them were the parents of the late Capt Vikram Batra, PVC, the brother of late Major Somnath Sharma, India’s first PVC and himself the ex Army Chief, Gen VN Sharma, along with his wife.

Days earlier, I had visited the Batra’s at Palampur, to pay homage to Vikram, seek permission to borrow for display a few of his artifacts at the Yol museum and request his dignified yet grieving parents to join us for the ceremony.

The Batra home, set beyond a tea garden in the low hills surrounding Palampur, is a far cry from the mountains that claimed him. Yet, his parental home exudes his passion, his fervour, his commitment to the pledge he took on becoming a soldier; the country first, always and every time.

I showed a nine-minute TV clip on Vikram, on that hugely moving last day, at Yol. It was the Barkha Dutt recording of his now iconic ‘Yeh Dil Mange More’ and ‘fly the tricolour or come back wrapped in it’ sound bytes. Barkha stated very recently that she had intuitively sensed he would not return.

So had his father, Mr GL Batra, as he watched that last, touching interview. They were both right. She had unknowingly essayed her first obituary. Mr Batra had lost a son, and Vishal, who resembles him so heart breakingly, his extraordinarily brave twin brother.

Recalling Vikram’s sacrifice, Vishal broke down inconsolably, during the TV interview with Barkha, conducted under the shadows of Point 4875 where he died. We, the nation, broke down too. I wonder, though, how our honorable MP must have reacted.

He needs to be reminded that the colour of a martyr’s blood across the continuum of time, era, history, country, location, is always red. Blood red. It is never daubed in the colours of political parties. May God, Allah Talah, forgive this MP his trespasses as the ESM fraternity and perhaps the nation at large are certainly going to have a problem doing that.
Colour of a martyr’s blood by Maj Gen (retd) Raj Mehta

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