A nation that does not honour its heroes (martyrs) will not long endure”. -Abraham Lincoln.
This is what American president commented nearly 150 years ago, but its lasting message remains relevant even today. On February 14, 2019 when whole India was in Valentine mood terrorists struck the biggest blow, a suicide attacker rammed explosive laden SUV into convoy of seventy vehicles of CRPF, forty nine jawans got martyred leaving the whole nation shell shocked in grief. Such was the impact that only few mangled remains of the targeted bus were visible; leave alone the bodies of jawans. Nation was witnessing a tragedy never faced before in the living memory of masses.
It’s not that this attack was the first one in BJP rule as Pakistan sponsored terrorists had struck at Kathua and Gurdaspur in 2015, Pathankot Airbase, Pampore, URI, Nagrota in 2016 and Sunjwan Brigade headquarters in 2018 to name a few. Lynching of DSP Muhammad Ayub Pandith, gunning down of JKP persons, frequent abduction and killings of army men of valley on their vacation, all were clear indicators. In addition to this continuous mayhem in the valley after elimination of terrorist Burhan Wani and various videos of heckling of CRPF jawans by locals of valley clearly indicated that something major was bound to happen. The fact is that government data tabled on February 5, 2019 revealed the bitter truth about many fold increase in terrorist activities after BJP came to power in 2014. There was a 93% rise in the number of security personnel killed in terrorist incidents in Jammu and Kashmir, these five years also saw a 176% rise in the number of terrorist incidents in the state. The state witnessed a total of 1,708 terrorist incidents, on an average, 28 terrorist incidents every month for five years. In 2014, there were 222 terrorist incidents in the state which saw a marginal decrease in 2015 when there were 208 such incidents. However, since 2016, the number of terrorist incidents has seen an upward trend including elimination of Burhan Wani. The number of terrorist incidents in J&K rose by 54.8 % in 2016, 6% with 342 incidents in 2017 and 79.53% with 614 incidents in 2018, a whopping nearly 51 terrorist incidents every month. There was a continuous rising trend in the number of people who were killed in terrorism-related activities in J&K in these five years. Between 2014 and 2018, a total of 1,315 people were killed in the state due to terrorism, 138 i.e.10.49% were civilians, 339 i.e. 25 % were security personnel and 838 i.e. 63.72% were terrorists, certainly a rise in deaths in all three categories i.e. civilians, security personnel and terrorists. Between 2014 and 2018, the number of civilians killed in Jammu & Kashmir had risen by 35.71 %; number of security persons killed had increased by whopping 93 % and the number of terrorists killed by 133.63 %. In between 2016 and 2018, close to 400 terrorists infiltrated into J&K, on an average 11 terrorists infiltrating into the state every month. The highest number of infiltrations into Jammu and Kashmir took place in June 2018 when 38 terrorists were estimated to have entered the state. Between January 2016 and December 2018, there were only three months when no infiltrations took place in the state.
“We salute you, brave sons of Mother India. You lived for the nation and served the country with unparalleled valour. We stand in solidarity with the bereaved families,” PM Modi said on his Twitter handle after Pulwama attack. With no War Memorial since independence ultimately PM Modi dedicated the National War Memorial to the nation in a solemn ceremonial function on 25th February 2019, a befitting tribute to Pulwama Martyrs. The National War Memorial, near India Gate in New Delhi, is a salute to extreme sacrifices of our soldiers who laid down their lives defending the nation, post-independence. The National War Memorial also commemorates the soldiers who participated and made the supreme sacrifice in Peace Keeping Missions and Counter Insurgency Operations. The layout of the National War Memorial comprises four concentric circles, namely, the ‘Amar Chakra’ or Circle of Immortality, the ‘Veerta Chakra’ or Circle of Bravery, the ‘Tyag Chakra’ or Circle of Sacrifice, and the ‘Rakshak Chakra’ or Circle of Protection. The Tyag and Rakshak chakra are made up of 16 walls with granite bricks. Each brick has a name of a soldier, his ID, regiment and rank. Through a mobile application, one can type the name of the solider and find the location of the brick. A provision also exists by which new names can be added. For this periodically names will be compiled. The National War Memorial complex includes a central obelisk, an eternal flame and six bronze murals depicting famous battles fought by Indian Army, Air Force and Navy. Busts of the 21 awardees of Param Veer Chakra have been installed at Param Yoddha Sthal which includes three living awardees Sub Maj (Hony Capt) Bana Singh (Retd), Sub Major Yogendra Singh Yadav and Sub Sanjay Kumar. Since Independence nearly 26,000 soldiers of the Indian Armed Forces have made supreme sacrifice to defend sovereignty & integrity of India. The National War Memorial represents gratitude of a Nation to its Armed Forces & will serve as a symbol of inspiration for future generations.
There is no bigger sacrifice than to lay down one’s life in the duty of the nation. Every Indian is bounded by duty to honour their valour, sacrifice and martyrdom, in an enduring, dignified and holistic manner. It is not enough to give our heroes a proper military funeral as it any case is a sine qua non for a nation. But to truly honour them we must adopt, nurture and give succor to their families, not something for a year or two, but for as long as it takes. If we are enjoying freedom, if we can roam around anywhere, survive safe it’s because of the great men in uniform we are blessed to have. Those men in the uniform stay awake, alert day and night, in freezing/scorching temperatures, rain and snow to ensure that we are safe, our country is safe. They risk their lives courageously to safeguard the borders day and night, everyday- every minute of the year. And of course one needs the bravest of hearts to send your child to serve the nation very well knowing what they are going to face, a big salute to the families of the soldiers and martyrs.
What followed after Pulwama terror attack, in an immediate show of strength, India withdrew the Most Favoured Nation status to Pakistan, hiked customs duty on Pakistani imports by 200% and rallied to garner international support to isolate Pakistan. In another significant move, the government in Kashmir withdrew security to separatist leaders in Kashmir. Government also barred civilian traffic for two days a week on Kashmir highway to safeguard convoy in wake of Pulwama terror attack. Intelligence failure, human error or unavoidable suicidal attack, all said and done Pulwama terror attack changed India’s discourse towards terrorism and Pakistan forever. Subsequently India avenged by striking deep inside Pakistan territory at Balakote killing hundreds of JeM terrorists in a seven minute operation. With thumping majority in 2019 elections PM Modi and HM Amit Shah took decisive historic decision to abrogate Article 370 and 35A and simultaneously crafting two new UTs of Ladakh and J&K for full and final integration of J&K with India and the peaceful transition since then is just remarkable. But those who repeatedly incited Kashmiris for violence before August 5 for their vested interests are under detention including three former CMs with PSA slapped on many. Gross violation of Article 14 of constitution in J&K just vanished with article 370 ensuring equal rights to WPRs, Valmikis and women of J&K. Most significantly post August 5 there is 73 percent drop in martyrdom of jawans. PM Modi has done what no one dared to even think of since independence, rewritten history forever-historical blunder corrected, a real tribute to the extreme sacrifices of our martyred jawans. They cannot come back neither anyone can fulfill the void left but at least nation has stood for them and pays a grand salute to them, Jai Hind.