He knew there was no chance of survival. They were only twenty one and the enemy in thousands. But he had to hold fort at all cost till the reinforcements arrived. More than the flag he served under he was answerable to his own conscious, paltan and tribe. ‘Nishchay kar apni jeet karoon’ was what his guru had taught him. When he fell along with his comrades at Saragarhi, the House of Commons gave them a standing ovation from across the globe in London.
‘Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do and die;’ the newly invented machine guns mowed down his mates in scores as they fought from trench to trench. The world was at war and he couldn’t have been left out. He fought a fierce enemy thousands of miles away from home at Ypres, Gallipoli and Mesopotamia in ‘the war to end all wars’. A memorial by the name of India Gate was built to honour his ninety thousand buddies who perished in the Great War.
The peace had barely survived for two decades when he was once again asked to take on the might of Fascist world powers. Be it Monte Cassino on the Italian Alps, Bir Hachiem in North African deserts or unforgiving jungles of Burma, he proved his mettle fighting for the larger good of humanity. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. But victory came at the cost of his Indian blood.
‘The stroke of midnight’ in August 1947 was a differentiating moment when his status changed overnight to a ‘nationalist’ soldier from an ‘imperial’ one earlier. Within weeks he was called to save Kashmir where he exhibited the same commitment as he had done in all previous wars. Ever since he signed a bond for unlimited liability with Indian Republic he has lived with the core ethos of “Naam, Namak, Nishan” winning trust and respect of his countrymen.
War is the continuation of policy by other means and a soldier’s Dharma is to obey orders of Regime of the day. When required he is expected to even lay down his life abiding by the strong traditions and ethos ingrained in him.
The controversy generated by merger of the flame at India Gate with the one at National War Memorial was the last thing he would have wanted. Words like ‘mercenary’ and ‘cannon fodder’ used by some to describe the pre-independence soldier were insulting to say the least. Ask the son, widow or parents of a fallen soldier what it means to lose someone they regard as their hero.
“In times of war and not before, Gods and soldiers we adore. But in times of peace and all things righted, God is forgotten and the soldier slighted.” Let us not make him feel that he killed the unfortunate or die for the ungrateful. As we salute the Eternal Flame it is time to pay respect to his Eternal Soul too; This ‘Unknown Soldier’ too was a son of Bharat Desh.
Col HP Singh
Alumini of the Lawrence School Sanawar & NDA Khadakwasla,