‘Wall of Valour’ a welcome move
Col Anil Bhat, VSM(Retd)
Inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to help create consciousness about the nation’s real heroes and spread a spirit of respect for them, Minister of Human Resource Development Prakash Javadekar and Minister of State for Defence Dr. Subhash Bhamre jointly launched a campaign to institute a ‘Wall of Valour’ in 1,000 educational institutions across the country.
A pleasant surprise was in store for the audience of students, vice-chancellors of universities, serving and retired Army officers and media who attended the function on on May 2 2017, at the National Media Centre (NMC) in New Delhi. Because sharing the dais with messrs, Javadekar and Bhamre, Lt Gen Sarath Chand, Vice Chief of Army Staff, Rear Admiral KK Pandey, and Air Marshal HN Bhagwat (representing the three Services) and former Rajya Sabha member Tarun Vijay, who initiated this campaign were Indian Army’s two living and serving Param Vir Chakra (PVC) recipients, who survived Pakistan army’s intensified midsummer misadventure in Kargil in 1999, Grenadier, now Subedar, Yogender Singh Yadav, 18 Grenadiers and Rifleman, now Naib Subedar, Sanjay Kumar, 13 Jammu and Kashmir Rifles. Behind the dais was a large board with the portraits India’s 21 PVC awardees: Major Somnath Sharma, 4 Kumaon, (Posthumous), 1947; Second Lieutenant Rama Raghoba Rane, Bombay Sappers, 1948; Company Havildar Major Piru Singh, 6 Rajputana Refiles, (Posthumous), 1948; Lance Naik Karam Singh, 1 Sikh, 1948; Naik Jadunath Singh, 1 Rajput, (Posthumous), 1948; Captain Gurbachan Singh Salaria, 3/1 Gorkha Rifles, (Posthumous), 1961; Major Shaitan Singh, 13 Kumaon, (Posthumous), 1962; Subedar Joginder Singh, 1 Sikh, (Posthumous), 1962; Major Dhan Singh Thapa, 1/8 Gorkha Rifles, 1962; Company Quartermaster Havildar Abdul Hamid, 4 Grenadiers, (Posthumous), 1965; Lieutenant Colonel A B Tarapore, Poona Horse, (Posthumous), 1965; Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon, 18 Squadron, (Posthumous), 1971; Major Hoshiar Singh, 3 Grenadiers, 1971; Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal, Poona Horse, (Posthumous), 1971; Lance Naik Albert Ekka, 14 Guards, (Posthumous), 1971; Major Ramaswamy Parameswaran, 8 Mahar, (Posthumous), 1987; Naib Subedar Bana Singh, 8 JAK LI, 1987; Grenadier Yogender Singh Yadav, 18 Grenadiers, 1999; Captain Vikram Batra, 13 Jammu and Kashmir Rifles, (Posthumous), 1999; Rifleman Sanjay Kumar, 13 Jammu and Kashmir Rifles, 1999 and Lieutenant Manoj Kumar Pandey, 7/11 Gorkha Rifles (Posthumous), 1999.
The nationwide programme named ‘Vidya Veerta Abhiyan’ involves adorning a wall 15 x 20 feet with these portraits at designated prominent places in educational campuses to inculcate a sense of national pride and patriotism among the students. The expenditure on constructing the wall, the display etc is proposed to be borne by voluntary contributions by the teaching faculty and the students of the educational institutions.
Addressing the gathering, Javadekar said, “We feel secure just because of the continuous vigil and alertness of our Armed Forces along the borders.” He added that Armed Forces personnel are our real post-Independence heroes while the freedom fighters who laid down their lives and faced atrocities for the cause of freedom are heroes of that period.
Expressing appreciation for the display of portraits of 21 PVC awardees to instill the spirit of patriotism among youth of the nation, Dr. Bhamre complimented troops for tirelessly braving enemy bullets in difficult terrain while away from their families for long periods and he expressed confidence of their
Both the ministers condemned the recent barbarism by Pak army and presented portraits of the gallant PVC heroes to Vice Chancellors of various universities present, including Arunachal Pradesh and a representative from Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.
Invited to speak on the occasion, both survivor PVCs Yadav and Kumar, had the audience spellbound and repeatedly clapping as they simply and stoically shared their experiences of exemplary acts of valour during the Kargil conflict. Referring to the recent brutality by Pak army, Sanjay Kumar explained the “Soch Me Farak” (difference in attitudes) of Indian and Pak armies and reminded how during that confrontation our troops had given decent burials to enemy troops killed, which Pakistan then had refused to acknowledge or collect the bodies of.
This event again raises two questions. Why has India’s pre and post Independence history not been taught in schools and why has a war memorial not yet been constructed, despite Arun Jaitley announcing plans for it during his earlier stint as Defence Minister?
India’s India Gate was made by the British as a tribute to 74,187 Indian soldiers, who were killed out of 1.5 million who participated in World War (WW) I. The Teen Murti was a memorial to honour personnel of the Indian Cavalry, who died in WW I. In WW II, 2.5 million Indian personnel were the decisive factor for Allied victory, but the Brits left in too much of a hurry to make another war memorial. Indian troops have been paid impressive tributes by a number of Allied countries for their role in both WWs I and II, with citations of their gallantry well recorded in museums and memorials. The Indian Government since Independence obviously had no time to even think about even one war memorial despite being responsible for ordering the Armed Forces to fight several wars and conflicts since then.
While USA entered both WW I and II late, it built imposing memorials and/or museums for both. There is also a memorial for US Marine Corps in WW II, as well as veterans memorials for those involved in Korea and Vietnam. And all of these are in Washington DC. The Arlington cemetery spread over 624 acres in Virginia, is as good as in Washington. There is a separate memorial for women soldiers. Visiting the Arlington National Cemetery is an emotional experience for not only soldiers but civilians too. And the crowds that come to visit national war memorials in the US are a testimony to the fact that no matter what the cause of deployment in any conflict even those publicly perceived as futile or unnecessary the respect that dead soldiers get is indeed wide and heartfelt. Visiting Washington DC and the war memorials, this writer as an Indian, yet again felt utter disgust at how the Indian government since Independence has failed to inculcate national pride and how shabbily it has treated its Armed Forces.
It remains to be seen when the war memorial will come up, what all will be done to assuage the feelings of the next of kin of victims of the rogue-butcher Pak army and how and when New Delhi will formulate and implement a consistent effective policy on dealing with Pakistan.
While the Wall of Valour in universities is good gesture, it is an incomplete one or one which needs to be garnished with some more information about all the wars/ conflicts fought since Independence to maintain India’s territorial integrity, including figures of fatal casualties and gallantry awards. To increase awareness about the vital aspect of India’s post Independence threats/needs for security, the Wall of Valour should be project should be extended to schools also. In fact, in the face of much flawed narrative of liberals/ leftists/ peaceniks/ pseudo-secularists/ pseudo human rights/ pseudo freedom of speech activists, every effort must be made by the Government to create and maintain public consciousness about India’s threats, security and all the sacrifices made by its armed and security forces.