'We want Shastri, not Manmohan or Modi'

Ayodhya Yadav does not know how old he is; “I must be in the late seventies.” The old man from Baida Banspar village in Deoria district of Uttar Pradesh is angry because he has lost his son Satyanarayan Yadav, an Assistant Sub Inspector (BSF) posted in Akhnoor sector of Jammu and Kashmir, not to an enemy bullet but what he calls an ill-conceived ceasefire agreement. It’s been hot along the Indo-Pak border but Yadav calls down curses on the “cold and callous” attitude of political leaders towards the men in uniform. Yadav said it all to Lokmarg.

 
Satyanarayan’s mother wasn’t happy when he cleared all the tests for joining the Border Security Force. But my younger brother and I felt it would be an honour for our community and the entire village to have a son drafted into the service of the nation. Twenty-five years on, I doubt if I made the right decision. No, not because I have lost my son, but when I watch the TV channels and see the callousness of our political masters who speak of a muscular policy publicly but ask our securitymen to hold their fire because it is Ramzan. Why don’t they ask our securitymen to commit suicide? This is the sentiment today in our village and neighbouring areas. Tell me why only our securitymen should respect the holy month of Ramzan! Why can’t the people on the other side observe a Ramzan peace too? Do they, year after year? Is it a wise decision to offer our soldiers’ lives in the name of peace during Ramzan when they find it a good time to target us? I have lost my son, but why put others who are alive at risk over and over. Do away with this ceasefire business, please. We do not want Modi or Manmohan, give us Lal Bahadur Shastri. That is what the entire village feels today. And you know why our village is seething with anger. Because Satya was a very jovial man and even though his visits to the native village were not very frequent, whenever he would come, he talked about his life at BSF posts and told the youth to join the forces. It was under his guidance that many young men in our village joined the Army or paramilitary forces over last two decades. He was a role model for many in the village. We were faced with not one but two deaths within a few days. Satya enjoyed a special relationship with his chachi (aunt), who would pamper him with good food whenever he came home. When at home, he would sit with her and massage her feet like a son. The day his body bag arrived, his chachi died of grief. The government has declared an ex-gratia amount of ₹20 lakh for Satya but we would be happy only if the government sitting in Delhi promises that they will never ever enter into a ceasefire agreement with Pakistan and terrorists. Our forces take good care of its men, their senior officers visited us, shared food with us. But the political callousness is disheartening. The topiwallas (politicians) visit us only during elections. Shame on them! Satyanarayan’s youngest son Rajesh Yadav is currently in Class 10 and he has vowed he will join the forces and avenge his father’s death. He has also told me to remain alive to witness his passing out parade when he dons the uniform. But I am too old to bear another loss. I can only pray to God that my grandson’s anger subsides and he pursues a more peaceful career.
 

Also at Lokmarg

I’m a proud man, says BSF martyr’s father


With editorial assistance from Lokmarg]]>

I'm a proud man, says BSF martyr's father

The volatile India-Pakistan border and the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir continue to devour our uniformed young men at a steady rate. Krisna Kumar Pandey lost his son Vijay, a 26-year-old BSF constable who made the supreme sacrifice on June 3, 2018 on the Indo-Pakistan border. Speaking to LokMarg at his village Sathgaon in Fatehpur district of Uttar Pradesh, Pandey broke down several times while talking of Vijay, preparations for whose wedding were on when the news of his death came in.

 
Vijay’s wedding invitation cards had been distributed. There were about two weeks left for the big day and there was a mix of anxiety and happiness in the family. Vijay himself would be coming home in two days. The young members were insisting that a DJ music night be organized before the wedding. The family was discussing how much space the dance stage would need and how much extra cost it will incur… things like that. And then, it was like lightning struck us. God had other plans for my son, Vijay who was posted at the International Border with Pakistan in the Akhnoor sector. High ranking officials who came along with the body bag, told me Vijay was martyred on the night of June 3 when the enemy resorted to unprovoked firing at his post. What can one do? If God wrote untimely death in his destiny, we cannot replace it with marriage. His sisters had bought a sherwani and pagri for his wedding. But God wanted him to don the tricolor. I must tell you about my son’s childhood and how he was inspired to serve the country in uniform. From a young age, Vijay was mighty impressed with Lakkhi Chacha (Lakshman Pandey) who was a Subedar in the Indian Army. Every time, Lakkhi came home on holidays carrying an iron trunk and a blanket, Vijay would spend hours with him. He would listen Lakkhi’s stories about the life inside an Army camp, their routine, their drills, duties. He always wanted to be a soldier. That was his calling from the beginning. Once I took him to the local Dusshera mela, he chose a plastic gun and a tank for his toys. When he was in Class 8, he asked Lakkhi Chacha for his used Olive Green uniform and got it altered by the village tailor for his own use. The village elders were happy to see this passion in him. When he joined the BSF, the entire village celebrated. Today, the whole village is in mourning. That is the strength of a soldier’s uniform. Dead at 26, Vijay is a hero of our village. The officers who accompanied his body were surrounded by all the youth of the village. Nitesh, Virender, Gokul… they all wanted the officers to tell them about the recruitment process of armed forces. There is also a bit of anger in our village against the government decision to announce a ceasefire. You have tied the hands of our jawans while the enemy continues to violate his promises. There is grief in the family but not without a sense of pride. The sweets that were prepared for Vijay’s wedding were distributed amongst the people who gathered here to honour his mortal remains. We are also planning to build a memorial at the same ground where his tilak ceremony was to take place. The father of the girl who was to get married to Vijay came here and said he wants his granddaughter married to Vijay’s elder brother’s son to keep the two families united with a wedding bond. Even in his death, even in this moment of grief, Vijay makes me feel proud. This is a mixed bag of feelings which few will ever understand.
 

Also at Lokmarg

‘We want Shastri, not Manmohan or Modi’


—With editorial assistance from Lokmarg]]>

A RAY OF HOPE, CEASEFIRE IN SOUTH WEST SYRIA

The Druz are predominantly in As-Suweida governate as well as in the areas bordering Iraq in the east. Since the northern offensive from Turkey did not make any headway towards Damascus which was 500 Kms away, the coalition forces launched the southern offensive from Jordan in late 2013 because Damascus was much closer. In the southern offensive the opposition forces made steady progress and cleared all areas astride Israel. The mission area of United Nations Disengagement Observation Force also forms  part of this region. Therefore, we as peacekeepers bore the brunt of collateral damage of this offensive. Syrian Arab Armed Forces (SAAF) were pushed north and eastward towards Damascus. The idea to have a buffer zone in these border districts was mooted a long time back and my interlocutors in Israel and Jordan had repeatedly mentioned this to me. I had always advised Israelis not to cross the 1974 ceasefire line and move east towards Damascus In a bid to desist them from doing that,  I used to emphasise that they would be ill advised to leave the heights along the Alpha line ( ceasefire line between Israel and Syria) and come east to low lying areas and expose themselves from all sides to the fire of opposition groups and SAAF. Both SAAF and opposition groups would have contested this action of Israel resulting in escalation of violence. The present ceasefire has come about after prolonged efforts of Russia and talks between Russian and US leaders. It is the beginning of the forming of the  de-escalation zones which Mr Staffan De Mistura, the special Envoy of Secretary General of United Nations to Syria, has been trying ever since his appointment in 2014. In fact I had met Ramzy  Ezzeldin Ramzy, the deputy special envoy in Beirut and emphasised that Qunneitra governate; which includes the Golan Heights, where our peacekeeping mission is located, as the best region to start their de-escalation experiment from. They have done exactly that after three years of sustained efforts! [caption id="attachment_17123" align="alignleft" width="300"] (DAMASCUS, July 8, 2017 (Xinhua) — Deputy UN Special Envoy for Syria Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy (C) speaks during a press briefing in Damascus, capital of Syria,[/caption] Qunneitra Governate lies  in South West of Syria and shares the ceasefire line with Israel on the west. Daraa region is south of Qunneitra and is the bordering district with Jordan in the south. As-Suweida is further east of Daraa and also is the border district with Jordan. Together the three governates form an L shape region upto a depth of thirty kilometres from Israel and Jordan. Daraa forms the pivot of the region. Roads and approaches to Damascus lead from all three sides of this region. A ceasefire in the three governates will mean Israel and Syria would be isolated and immune from  the internal strife in Syria as they will have moderate opposition groups suitably inclined towards them controlling these areas. Since the pre-requisite of the ceasefire is that the region should  be void of all radical groups like ISIS, Hizbullah and Al Nusra; if that happens, the ceasefire is likely to hold. The Assad government has scanty presence in these areas and therefore, will honour the ceasefire. The United Nations is also working out no flying zones in concert with Russia, US and Turkey and they would be advised to include Iran for any lasting peace in the country. A big spin off from the ceasefire would be that over a million Syrian refugees who have been in Jordan, Iraq and Egypt for years would be able to come back to their country although some of them will still remain internally displaced persons (IDPs). It may be recalled that 5.5 million Syrian are refugees in neighbouring countries of Turkey (3,050,000), Lebanon (1,001,000), Jordan (661,000), Iraq (243,000) and Egypt (123,000). Another 6.5 million are Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in their own country and some of them have been displaced more than two times. Two thirds of the population of 23 million Syrians need humanitarian aid. In the six year old civil war this ceasefire is a ray of hope for similar ceasefires to be applied in other regions where the ground situation is more complicated. The seventh round of peace talks have commenced in Geneva paving the way for declaring other de- escalation zones in the rest of the country. * ( The author Lt Gen Singha was the Head of the Mission and Force Commander of United Nations peacekeeping mission in Golan Heights from 2012 to 2015 ) // ]]>