I was a little taken aback by the supreme courts orders of lodging an FIR for every encounter. Then in the same breath I would like to submit that from the lodging of FIR to the final disposal of case in which ever court, everything should be there at site. The accused, the witnesses, the judge, jury, police, injured, dead, villagers etc everyone would be available first hand. Let us be time bound and finish the “siapa”. No delays, no botching up, no tampering with the evidence. The soldier will get the well needed break from his tense and hectic job. At least food will be available in time; he will be able to sleep with his weapon un-cocked. He will be able to open his boots for a few hours extra. In the interim the judge Saab should be put as a sentry till the case is decided, in the same bunker, with the same equipment, and same shift schedule. Next day morning he should be in the ROP, evening back to the same bunker, and by the time he decides to write the judgement he should be put through the paces of cordon and search operations if not hot pursuit.
Judge saab being “Me lord” cannot break the rules so I do not know how will he fire, if he has to fire. The post commander should brief him on the rules of engagement. The guard commander should tell him what is he guarding and why. If he sees militants approaching he should ask them to identify themselves. If they say they are militants, then he at once must inform the post commander on telephone or wireless that we have just received a few guests at the gate who say they are militants, would you please come and receive them. I am sure judge Saab will have a policewala in tow there for his protection, so the presence of police in case of an encounter will be taken care of. Once those suspects show their papers and prove who they are, they should be allowed in the army camp by the judge Saab. Mind you they should be told not to take the sharp left road as it goes to the ammunition dump, the right one goes to the fuel dump, the straight one goes to the barracks and as per today’s parade state there are 43 soldiers in. Yes the langar is on the left of the barracks. Hot chai and pakoras will be made available. Post commander is on leave and don’t walk everywhere, as we just have finished our “geru-choona” for commanders visit at 9 am sharp.
I cannot help being sarcastic even though I may be booked for misrepresenting facts and making a mockery of the judgement by the “Honourable Judges”. Over all, my dear judge Saab, military operations are not court room debates and dramas. Here no durban calls “so and so militant hazir ho”. Here he has a gun, he fires and he kills you. He wears no uniform to be identified with. He merges with the civil population. He follows no rules of engagement. He never carries weapons openly. So when it comes to that crucial moment, then choice is yours either to fly the tri colour on top of your post, or be draped in one.
If we go lodging FIRs after every incident then I would suggest you people are better judges of situations, you can understand who is right or wrong by experience itself. I also was wondering that who will stand witness for this soldier at the sentry post. You won’t believe the army stating they are birds of the same feather. The civilian in case injured or killed, will be able to gather three more villages as witnesses as they are already against security deployment. Then you have your eyes tied with the cloth, how will you see which side the balance is tilting. How will you know that they have not put stones on one side of the balance? They might have used the same for pelting and now to tilt the scales to their advantage. Ammunition will not allowed, or else we would win hands down.
That moment to decide whether to pull a trigger or not comes with a lot of training and ground experience Judge Saab. I beg your pardon you have none of either. The soldier is the first one to bear the brunt of any militant assault, the first line of defences generally takes the maximum brunt and the first fifteen minutes are most crucial. Thereafter, it is a cat and mouse game, one who has patience, practice, training, firepower, numbers, sustainability and determination wins. Will all these be quantifiable in judicial terms? Will the guile, tactics, manoeuvrability, thoughts to save collateral damage, saving of innocent lives, saving maximum property, using minimum force, in fact the thought of even keeping the militant alive to get more information through interrogation be factored in the judgement? Will the soldier’s human rights be kept first then of the militants or their supporters even if they are stone pelters? If the soldier gets martyred or injured will the person who did it be punished in the same manner you are going to try the soldier? Will you be able to pin point that civilians who instigates and hinder security operations, including women?
I feel that we are moving towards a time, when the soldier will refuse to even obey the command of “fire”. A soldier is given a gun to kill the enemy of the nation, internal or external. Let him not be there then, deal with civilians with the local police. If you give him a gun, he has to be protected in case he fires. He needs to be protected in good faith even if there is a death of an innocent inadvertently. No one does it on purpose. Overall judge sahib, I want you to pass a judgement where you hold the local politicians responsible for not controlling their own crowds. I want you to try all those who even if they are in power that have supported, abetted or colluded with militants and terrorist or the independence seekers. You sort them out; we are capable of looking after ourselves. If you people are now going to dictate to us how, when, at whom, for how long, with what weapon and the type of ammunition to fire. It doesn’t go down this veteran’s gullet at least! Servicemen will never speak, but I shall voice my soldier’s concern.
Most of us may have heard the story of a “chocolate cream soldier” in Arms and the man by George Bernard Shaw. We shall be at the brink of that if FIRs are going to be in vogue for operations in the thick of militancy and separatist prone areas. I will leave it if it is to be just the “first information report”. If it goes beyond that then we might have mutiny Judge Saab, where a soldier turns around and says sorry you may please lodge an FIR first. Let Judge Saab decide what the right course of action is for me, so that when an inquiry or trial is conducted the soldier is judicially protected for taking correct action at the appropriate time in any given situation. Suna tha kanoon andha hota hai, ab behara bhi ho gaya hai shayad par bolne ziada lag gaya hai,(I heard that law is blind but now it is turned deaf and speaks too much). Will “Me Lord” Listen? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!
© Noel Ellis