On a particularly sad day in 2016 when the Indian Army lost seven brave soldiers to a cowardly terrorist attack on the army camp at Nagrota, I opened my Facebook account late evening to check the newsfeed. Some stunning contradictions stared me in the face.
The left side of my Facebook page bore a small requiem from a civilian friend about the dastardly attack and how all this is so utterly deplorable. It had garnered about 66 ‘likes’ in about 12 hours, a modest total by my standards. The right half of my FB newsfeed that contains ‘trending’ items and sponsored links showed me that the most trending thing at that time was ‘Yuvraj Singh & Hazel Keech’s wedding’ – 18000 people were talking about it. 23000 people were talking about a Delhi High Court decree that a son has no legal right to property owned by his parents. 57000 people were also talking about actor Aamir Khan’s dramatic body transformation for the Bollywood movie ‘Dangal’.
As a stark contrast to all this, the terrorist attack on Nagrota was trending with 17000 people talking about it – lowest among the four items trending at 2000h on 30 Nov 16.
I viewed my rather barren Facebook page which bore the occasional post garnering a few likes, often in single digits. A recent post by me on why our soldiers require modern helicopters was going down without a fight to someone’s latest profile pic. I shrugged my shoulders and moved on, resolving to do better next time. But what of our soldiers who are being paraded on Facebook without the honour & respect due to them through our actions in real life?
I scrolled back to the sad update about the Nagrota attack & wondered whether contributing an emoticon or hitting ‘Like’ would make any difference to the martyred soldiers or their distraught families at a time of grave tragedy. I ground my teeth and let it pass. Maybe I am as guilty as the netizen who put out the soldiers’ photograph. Perhaps by not hitting that ‘like’ or ‘comment’ box, in some small way, I contributed to the fact that a terrorist attack on one of our frontline outposts was trending much lower on social media than a cricketer’s wedding.
It is an important day for our armed forces; a good time to make some promises to our soldiers if we really care.
If you respect the soldier, make that trip to your neighbouring city or village to attend his last rites when he is martyred.
If you respect the soldier, shake his hand or offer him a warm smile next time you cross him at a busy juncture in life.
If you respect the soldier, make your voice count when self-proclaimed intellectuals and armchair theorists propagate the ‘he signed up for it’ theory.
If you respect the soldier, ask yourself what you have done for their families after they made the ultimate sacrifice. Do you know of even ONE such family to whose welfare you have committed even a SINGLE day?
If you respect the soldier, take his children for a day out to the nearest mall or amusement park while their fathers are guarding our frontiers.
If you respect the soldier, stand up for him when his position in society is weakened by successive governments.
If you respect the soldier, ask your connections in high places to offer them a chance at resettlement when he steps out of uniform with scars of service, both physical & mental. And by the way, some of them can do way better than just manage HR & security.
If you respect the soldier, step in when he is being harassed by someone on the street. Sometimes, even corrupt traffic cops & unruly autorickshaw drivers don’t think twice before violating a soldier’s dignity.
If you respect the soldier, reserve some seats in your airline, restaurant or multiplex and mark them “For real heroes only”
If you respect the soldier, ask why this country of 1.3 billion does not have a single, national war memorial after fighting alongside the British in two world wars and our own three wars post independence.
After you are done with all this, please celebrate your achievement by posting on social media. We do not need empty obituaries from digital India. We need you to stand by us in real life before you celebrate us on Facebook or mourn us through Twitter.
Picture Courtesy: Prof. Diptesh Ghosh, IIM Ahmedabad (When the Navy Band played in IIMA for the first time, 21 Feb 2014)
©KP Sanjeev Kumar, 2016-19. All rights reserved.