The ‘Blind Men of Indostan’!
More than a hundred years ago, John Godfrey Saxe (1816- 1887) penned down “The Blind Men and the Elephant.” Inspired by an old allegory from the Indian subcontinent, this witty poem highlights the fact that while one’s subjective experience may be valuable, but being limited, it doesn’t reflect the truth in its entirety. In this poem, Saxe writes of how six blind men from “Indostan” decided to touch a single part of an elephant to decide what this object was.
Due to the limited experience of having touched and felt just one part of the elephant, the individual assessments regarding the object they had examined varied from a wall (elephant’s torso), a spear (the tusk), a snake (the trunk), a tree (leg), a hand fan (the ear) to a rope (tail). This is what happens when final assessments are based on limited and subjective personal experience (as in the case of the six blind men) and Saxe aptly describes the resultant situation as:
“Though each one was partly in the right.
And all were in the wrong!”
When he wrote this poem, Saxe would have never imagined that the wisdom on the perils of limited and subjective assessment that he acquired from this parable would be forgotten in the country of its origin. But that’s what the reality is and the recent controversy regarding Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat’s statement that the army would treat those trying to impede anti-terrorist operations and create conditions to facilitate escape of terrorists as “anti national elements” is a case in point. Within hours of making this comment, self proclaimed ‘experts’ promptly put on their blinkers and after exploring his words and phrases in isolation, concluded that what the Army Chief had said was morally
So this brings us to the question, what was so “intemperate” in what Gen Rawat said that made some call him “hot headed”? While there is nothing wrong in condemning what the Army Chief has said, those who do so need to be more specific by precisely pointing out what is exactly wrong in the Army Chief’s statement as behaving like the ‘Blind Men of Indostan’ by interpreting his statement piecemeal isn’t good enough. Furthermore, those pointing fingers should first enunciate that had they been in Gen Rawat’s place, what message would they have conveyed to those endangering the safety of soldiers engaged in encounters by directing a barrage of stones at them and
creating conditions to facilitate escape of
There is no doubt that the ‘Blind Men of Indostan’ who are upset with what the Army Chief has said haven’t delved seriously into his statement. Those who have interpreted Gen Rawat’s statement as a blanket threat of an imminent bloodbath in Kashmir need to think again- didn’t Gen Rawat start off by clarifying that the army’s aim is “to conduct operations in such a way that don’t endanger the civilians.” Moreover, since his cautionary message is specifically directed only against locals who have picked up arms and those who want to continue with acts of terrorism, displaying flags of the Islamic State and Pakistan, what is so menacing in what he has said?
By saying “sometimes locals prevent us from conducting military operations – at times even supporting terrorists to escape,” the Army Chief has given out the reasons why action needs to be taken against such people. So, is the statement of Gen Rawat that the army will act against those who impede operations against terrorists and jeopardise lives of our soldiers something uncalled for? While the ‘Blind Men of Indostan’ who are annoyed with what the Army Chief has said have all the rights to worry about those who intentionally obstruct army operations, don’t they also need to show similar concerns for the safety of
soldiers who are constantly putting their lives in the line of fire for the sake the nation’s integrity!
It is a matter of shame that a very senior member of the national political party which boasts of having made numerous sacrifices for the nation has called Gen Rawat’s statement an “unjustified threat.” By alleging that what the Army Chief has said can be the policy of the Centre and not that of the army he is implying that the army chief transgressing into the political arena. Though utterly distasteful, this obnoxious suggestion comes as no surprise as he is the same person who recently shocked national sensitivities by drawing an extremely perverse comparison between fatalities in the Uri Attack and those during the demonetisation process when there was a currency crisis. This learned (?) speaker needs to know that what the Army Chief has said is in no way a ‘policy’- it’s merely a legitimate and universally accepted military ‘rule of engagement’.
The plain and simple fact is that Gen Rawat hasn’t come up with some new barbaric military philosophy that would lead to an apocalypse as the ‘Blind Men of Indostan’ would like us to believe. All he has done is to merely articulate the core ethos of Indian Army that places upon its officers the sacred and non-negotiable professional and moral responsibility for ensuring the safety and wellbeing of their subordinates. This he owes to the men he commands and by making it abundantly clear that he will not accept the safety of his soldiers being jeopardised by mobs trying to sabotage anti terrorist operations, Gen Rawat deserves to be saluted as he has stood up for what is expected from him!
Tailpiece: Before making baseless insinuations, the ‘Blind Men of Indostan’ should ponder over GK Chesterton’s seminal observation that “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” So, our politicians and ‘Kashmir experts’ need behave more responsibly and show greater sensitivity by avoiding reckless utterances for petty political gains and TRPs as these could give a soldier facing bullets the erroneous impression that the public doesn’t care for his life or limb!