Let our children learn of our proud military heritage

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From Flanders Fields to Mesopotamia, from North Africa and Italy to Burma, nearly four million soldiers of the Indian Army fought overseas during the two World Wars and one hundred-and-fifty thousand of them perished. It is sad enough that the world knew little about them, because their colonial masters found no reason to reveal their gallantry and rob themselves of the glory of what were perceived as great British victories, which were actually Indian ones. It is inconceivable however, that successive governments of free India felt no compulsion to tell their story, or those of the countless Indian warriors from Porus to Shivaji who came before them, to our younger generation and to try to instill a sense of pride and patriotism in them. May be the powers that be were not too comfortable about the armed forces being given their due place in the national narrative, lest the silent role they played in Indian independence became apparent to the people; of the hasty British retreat impelled by a fear that the Indian armed forces may prove their Frankenstein’s monster in the volatile environment of the country catalyzed by the INA trials and naval mutiny.

The gallant traditions of unflinching courage under fire the intrepid soldiers, sailors and aviators of the Indian armed forces wove in blood during the World Wars continue to inspire their worthy descendents in India’s armed forces. They have risen to the occasion time and time again to write their own chapters of valour and sacrifice while defending the nation’s integrity for nearly three quarters of a century now since independence. Yet the country at large remains barely conscious of its prowess in arms and glorious military heritage. Even the many glorious Indian feats of arms after independence, from Zojila to Bomdi La and Phillora to Bogra and Basantar and Tiger Hill have already faded into obscurity in the country’s collective consciousness.

It is imperative that we address this national malady in earnest. Introducing military history as a compulsory subject in the school curriculum, right from the primary stage across the country, can have a telling impact in moulding young minds, besides promoting awareness. It would generate an interest among the young to join the armed forces when they grow up; but more than that they would come to be inspired by the noble ideals that the men and women of the armed forces live by and can be reasonably expected to follow those in their lives, whatever profession they may pursue. That alone would give the country a quantum leap in its march towards progress and prosperity. We urge the Honourable Minister of Human Resource Development to act on it.

For a soldier his duty comes first always and every time. Going by the same ethos, if every doctor in the country considered the welfare of his or her patients above own interests, every teacher considered the grooming of his or her students above own interests, and so on, the country will be a better place to live. The point here is, teaching the young our military history amounts to an exercise in improving our national character.

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