Portraits of patriotism

Tarun Vijay
All the patriotic people in the country appreciated Major Gogoi for saving civilians and security people from stone-pelters when he tied a stone-pelter to the bonnet of a jeep.
There were journalists who  condemned the incident and interviewed the stone pelter and his  mother, as if he is a martyr. Columns and editorials were written maligning the armed forces and asking for the severe punishment for the major. None, yes, none of these human rightists and the ‘secular’ columnists wrote a single line  about the harsh conditions our soldiers have to perform in their duties and none spoke against the ideology that pushed the youths of the valley to throw stone-missiles on our jawans.
But hows that made possible? Major Major Leetul Gogoi of 53 Rashtriya Rifles represents the mindset of a brave, courageous  patriotic Indian. Would he have been the same major Gogoi if his education was done in the Left wing pathshalas where the slogans of Azadi and support for the secessionists  form the essential part of the extra curricular activities  ? Would he be having the same rock like commitment to save the constitution and be loyal to his motherland if his upbringing was  done in an atmosphere where the ‘plight’ of the stone pelter  was more important than the question of saving the lives of Jawans ?
Hence the need to have the portraits and the life sketches of the martyrs in our educational institutions . They must remind everyone, every student and the teacher, that their labs and classrooms and the campus activities are on because there are soldiers on the front guarding the motherland , ready to live and die for the people they love.
They must know that the Param Veer Chakra Vijeta soldiers were one of them- who showed the supreme bravery and courage in the face of the gravest dangers and odds and won over the enemies of the nation.
They must remember the names of those Param Veer Chakra decorated soldiers, and have their stories of valour on their lips as the anthem of our togetherness- they might be Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians- but above  all they are all Indians. They are us.
We may know the names of the IPL cricketers , their hubbies, and the amount they were purchased for. But can we tell a single name of the Param Veer Chakra decorated soldier, who is still amongst us, and whose story inspires immensely? Do we care to tell our children that we are living peacefully and happily because  some one is braving the weather at Siachin and in the arts of Jailsamer? They belong to us as much as Amir Khan, Sachin and Deepika and Rajnikanth. They belong to us as much as my child belongs to me or my elder brother and my father belongs to me.  We are same blood and we share the destiny of the nation. Who tells this to the children?
Be honest. We  care more for the Justin Biebers and feel outraged about Gau-rakshaks than we think , know and respect soldiers. Narendra Modi hit the nail when he asked us all to show respect for the soldiers and he had cited several examples on how in USA and other Countries people honour soldiers  instantly, whenever they see them. We see the officers in uniform and hardly any one of us would even say namaste to them. We are rude to them in public and sing patriotic songs only when they die. Even their town won’t be familiar about them neither the local schools would display the pictures of the martyrs from their area. Its the apathy, the cold, ‘I don’t care’ attitude that is more killing than the bullets of the enemy.
Narendra Modi’s Leh speech to soldiers was so powerful and inspiring that’s we started working on a project that will help people, specially the youngsters to respect and learn more about the soldiers’ valour and the sagas of their sacrifices. The result is the Vidya Veerta Abhiyan or the Wisdom and the Valour Campaign for the Educational -Institutions- WAVE. We created a hashtag- #Students4Soldiers which became very popular.
The best part is the Govt appreciated it  and the first national launch was held in a graceful function at the National Media Centre, New Delhi. With help and encouragement of the Defence Minister Arun Jaitley the launch was a great success. Union Minister for HRD Prakash Javadekar, MoS Defence Dr Subhash Bhamre launched the campaign. Mr Javadekar, in his own inimitable style not only supported the movement but said candidly- let it be a students and teachers campaign- don’t expect a paisa for this project from govt- its a students campaign and let them own it up.
JNU, Jamia Milia Islamia, DU, IIT-Delhi,  Kerala University were there to receive the portraits of the twenty one Param Veer Chakra decorated soldiers. VCs from as far places as Itanagar ( Arunachal’s RG Central University), Central Kerala  and Jammu Universities, Doon University were present. Of course, if the  indefatigable ABVP  workers were there in large number – so were  many others without any affiliation to any organisation  and they all played a vital role in making it a success . Prof Talat Ahmad, VC, Jamia Milia Islamia  made sure to send a large number of students and professors.  DU was represented  by its  VC Prof Tyagi and senior faculty members and a number of students volunteered  to help organise the launch. Kendriya Vidyalaya Commissioner Santosh Malla was gracious to have the word spread and in all  1200 KVs across India the portraits are being requested to be installed.
JNU VC Prof M Jagadesh Kumar began work on it immediately  and it became nation’s first university to inaugurate Wall of Heroes on 16th May- the day Modi Govt completed its third year. War veterans joined the inauguration . Kargil martyr Captain Vijayant Thapar’s father Col Thapar spoke to the jam packed auditorium with students and the faculty that its a great moment too see soldiers being honoured in a university that became known for insulting the army and raising slogans for Kashmir’s azadi. VC Jagadesh Kumar was forthright when he said that the nation faces attacks not only from outside but from within too. If we are able to pursue our studies in class rooms it is because soldiers are safeguarding the nation. Hence we owe it to them- to have their portraits will help students to  get inspired, respect their valour and sacrifices and choose  army as their career also.
The movement to have soldiers’ portraits in all educational institutions is  spreading fast. Faster than we had ever envisaged.
Some of the Doubting Thomases would say- has what will happen with just a few portraits displayed? Do this or do that and portraits don’t help. Well, what happens when we erect temples, mosques and churches? Why don’t we tell them-
“Do this or do that “than merely erecting places of worship. Why do people visit  Badrinath or to Mecca and pray at Kaa’ba ?  Or we have tricolour – a piece of cloth for which we live and remain always ready to die for ? And  why the pictures of President and PM are displayed in offices and at airports?  Symbols do matter in our life and they have a role to shape our persona and reflect our mindset.
Param Veer Chakra Vijeta soldiers’s portraits  in the educational institutions is a campaign on the same lines. It reflects our heart and soul- that we care for those who care for the nation.
(The author is former Rajya Sabha MP)


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