Even as tension mounted on India's borders with China and Pakistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted the Indian soldiers and their kinsmen on the Army Day (January 15) on Friday, saying that the courageous servicemen always held the head of the nation high with pride.
But, worried stiff by the continual deaths of patriotic troopers, social activists in his own home state of Gujarat are not at all impressed.
In reply to a Surat-based right-to-information (RTI) activist, the government has admitted that the number of soldiers who died in their boots fighting terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir during Modi's six-year rule so far is double that witnessed during the Manhohan Singh regime.
Civil engineer-turned- social activist Sanjay Ezhava told Madhyamam that information he had sought under the RTI Act about soldiers' deaths in the past 10 years revealed a startling fact—a 100 percent increase in number of jawans martyred in the line of duty since Modi took up the reins of the county in 2014.
According to him, during the 10-year reign of Singh, Modi's predecessor, India lost 37 soldiers every year in Jammu and Kashmir, but during the 2014-2020 (till June) Modi administration, as many as 74 jawans had been dying year after year—a 100 percent rise, which, he said, was 'a bad omen' for the times ahead.
"On February 14, 2019, our 40 soldiers were martyred in the deadly Pulwama terrorist attack in J & K. On June 15, we lost 20 more Indian soldiers in Galwan Valley," lamented Ezhava and added that Modi should read the writing on the Chinese wall. "The revelation in the reply to my RTI query has exposed the faulty policy of the government known for its braggadocio. Who is responsible for so many deaths of jawans?"
He said that official information provided to him seemed to be "totally false and misleading" because the Modi government did not want to reveal the actual figures. "It is a matter of shame that our government has failed to save the lives of so many soldiers".
Only on December 23 last year, a 27-year-old Assamese jawan of the Central Reserve Police Force was martyred in a grenade attack in central Kashmir by militants in Jammu and Kashmir, while three army soldiers, including a Captain, and a BSF jawan lost their lives in mid-November near Uri, 10 km from the Line of Control with Pakistan, during unprovoked firing from the neighboring country.According to Gujarat High Court activist-advocate Iqbal Masud Khan, emboldened by China's backing, and a haphazard foreign policy of the Modi government, Pakistan has been pouring infiltrators into Kashmir and Punjab and in the process inflicting heavy casualties on India's jawans with the result that the deaths of the soldiers have doubled during the BJP rule.
"While soldiers have been sacrificing their lives to defend the country, the Central government on its part was utilising these incidents for advancing its political agenda, playing the bravery card of these sacrifices," asserts Khan.
Jatin Sheth, Ahmedabad's torch-bearer for citizen empowerment, said that due to tight control on media, facts and true figures were no more available which had not been the case during the Manmohan Singh regime.
"The Modi Government is a one-man army, having miserably failed on all fronts. India is heading towards a disaster."
He feels that the compensation given to martyrs' families is certainly not enough, but, for doing anything more for the bereaved family, "we need a sensitive government. There must be a cell to help the family to cope with problems that arise when the family head dies."
"A large number of media corporations are under Modi's firm control and help him to strengthen his position by spreading fake news. Secondly, I suspect that the so-called latest armaments may not work to the army's satisfaction since corruption has crossed all limits," opined Sheth.
He also told Madhyamam that weakening of the RTI Act and its functioning, not allowing CAG reports discussion by causing some kind of mayhem in Parliament showed that the Modi Government was afraid of any kind of serious discussion in Parliament.
Social activist Mujahid Nafis said the Centre had miserably failed to protect the borders, what with clashes continuing with China or Pakistan. "On the one hand, our patriotic jawans are dying day after day, and on the other, the government is busy dumping human rights activists behind bars in false cases."
Zahid Kadri, community leader and chairman of Ahmedabad's Ganj Shokhda Kabristan, said that when Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister, Modi's speeches were just a pack of lies. "He used to brag that if BJP comes to power, 'we will kill ten soldiers of the enemy country for every Indian soldier martyred'. What happened to that boast now that we lost 20 soldiers in clashes with the Chinese?"
Ignatius Dabhi, Christian community leader and veteran journalist who has taught English to Army aspirants and ex-servicemen, wondered why India did not have friendly ties with any neighbouring country. As for compensation, he said that so many soldiers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar had died in their boots but their families were paid peanuts.
Said senior Congress leader Arjun Modhwadia: "Modiji and his BJP came to power with the slogan of "56-inch chest", symbolising a fearless and bold decision-maker. But it has proved hollow. Borders are burning, transgressions by Pakistan and China army at the border multiplied. Modiji failed on both defence and foreign policy fronts."
Interestingly, in Kodiyavada village of Sabarkantha district in Gujarat, more than 1,200 people out of a population of 6,500, are in the Armed Forces of India. Out of 700 houses there, more than one person from each home is serving in the Army.
Gujarat had 26,656 ex-servicemen as on March 31, 2017 and 3,517 widows of servicemen out of which 6,233 servicemen are from Ahmedabad. Thirty-nine from Gujarat have been awarded one or the other bravery award for their service to the nation. Twenty have laid their lives fighting terrorism and 24 while fighting on the nation's borders.