Fratricides and Suicides in Armed Forces

Rameshwar Singh Jamwal
Two back to back cases of fratricides occurred in J&K within two days, involving Army and ITBP men, underlining the need to understand the disturbing and ever increasing phenomenon and the need to check the tendency in armed forces. Fratricide and suicide are the two sides of the same coin, both occurring due to some misbalancing factors in the brains of the persons doing these acts but may have some different reasons as well. Between 2011 and 2018, 891 deaths of personnel of Indian Armed forces had occurred due to suicides (News Click, Feb.19, 2019). The figures are alarming for the periods thereafter as well. Psychological counselling and Yogic practices, if adopted, have failed to arrest the trend. Suicides are not occurring in armed forces alone. According to WHO, more than eight lac people commit suicides every year all across the globe meaning one death every 40 seconds.
This causes trouble to a lot of people, to the families, to the agencies, to the governments, to the society and if the person survives the attempt, to the person also. It is very difficult to know the exact reasons, as understanding the functioning of human brain is not so easy but in large number of cases of suicides, it is the mental stress and illness, substance use, impulsivity, adverse childhood experiences, such as child abuse and neglect, bullying, family history, relationship problems in family while in fratricides, besides these factors, anger can be one of the major contributory factors. Anger can come from heated arguments with colleagues, due to abuse by seniors, adverse working conditions, and a host of other sources, all entering the human brain through the five sense organs, agitating the different regions of the brain but who decides the ultimate result is still unknown. Is it the mind, the conscious or the sub conscious one or something more, is still to be deciphered? Even the best of the psychologists have failed to predict as to when a person is going to take the extreme step and hence it would be too farfetched to assume that the scrutiny by psychologists at the entry level in armed forces can prevent such occurrences. To scrutinize millions of persons at the time of short listing the applicants in Indian armed forces is next to impossible but there can be ways to minimize the occurrences. The author himself, in his practice as Counsel of Government of India has dealt with many such cases, which were preventable and even discussed the idea with a few senior officers but due to certain factors, the remedial measures could not be put in place.
Though, the author himself is not a psychologist but there are myriad of factors, besides psychological counselling, which can be addressed by adopting the right type of approach, which includes the issue as to whatever we do, why we do. This has to be understood from Indian Philosophical point of view and from there we can find the right type of strategy to deal with the problem as well. Yoga certainly helps to calm down the agitated minds and can prevent fratricidal and suicidal tendencies, but whether the Yoga practitioners, if any, being used by the armed forces have the capability and capacity to understand all the fields working in shaping up our brains or addressing the problems in families arising due to a multitude of factors, is the million Dollar question. As per my studies, the Indian armed forces are far behind in adopting real Yogic practices, which can help in countering the fratricidal and suicidal tendencies and then there is hardly any attention being paid to the epigenetic, and genetic factors. Latest studies show that a host of factors can be responsible in affecting the amniotic fluid and fetal environment, when the shaping of the human brain is taking place during the stay of the child in the womb.
The environmental factors, occurring around the mother of the child, when he is still in womb, and even the habits, moods, diet of the fathers can affect the shaping up the personality of the individual, as fathers are responsible for fifty percent of the personality of the persona as well, if biological factors are considered to be the only reasons of shaping up of human brains and minds. But our minds and intelligence level does not depend upon the biological factors alone, there is much more to it than just biology, physics or chemistry, as admitted by some of the most prominent faces in the field. The interplay of outside world, with the genes and DNA of the child in the making, the microscopic invasions in the shape of medicines and foods, during pregnancy, during the infancy of the child when is being breast fed, the resultant massive depository of genes brought by the invaders from mothers and fathers play a significant role in affecting the microbiome of the child (Bill Sullivan, 2019), some of whom may be donning the olive dresses in the armed forces.
It is well established that the behaviour of the mother and whatever she does during pregnancy brings lifelong changes in the child’s DNA and Epigenetics plays important role in host of problems, including those of depression, anxiety and intellectual ability, which lot of times leads to such unsavoury incidents of fratricide and suicides. Such conditions can also predispose someone to addiction, rage disorders and neuroticism. The bosses in the armed forces don’t realize that our genes have remarkable effect on our complicated characteristics like our aggression and paranoid behaviours and till we adopt the right kind of strategy to deal with problem, it can cause damage of enormous amount. The Minister of Defence, and the top brass of the Indian Armed Forces would be in Jammu in coming days and since J&K is one of the major theatre of such incidents occurring at regular interval, it would be expected that they pay due attention to these factors as well, besides strategising against our two adversaries on western and northern borders.
(The author is the President of Criminologists Society and a practising Advocate of J&K High Court.)