Should you sit down or stand up
By Rashmi Oberoi
I come from a military background and therefore, know what rules, protocol and code of conduct mean… I have also been brought up in the same environment to understand and imbibe values such as compassion, kindness, integrity and of course etiquette.
And in all this, if anyone deserves the greatest and deepest respect is the fallen soldier who has served his country and its people valiantly and selflessly. He has gone beyond his call of duty and given his all for our freedom. This is where the nation must acknowledge the soldier’s sacrifice and look after the martyr’s family. Most often than not the families are left with little or no financial support – the soldier having been the sole bread-winner for the family.
This brings me to the issue that has disturbed me immensely, and compelled me to put my pen to the paper. It is the President of India who reviews the Republic Day parade and confers the highest gallantry award, the Param Vir Chakra / Ashoka Chakra on individuals who have displayed great courage in the face of adversity. We also have a foreign Head of State as a special guest to the solemn ceremony on Rajpath.
In 2015, I was deeply disturbed to see that during the award ceremony only the President and the three service chiefs rose as a mark of respect during the award ceremony while the other dignitaries watched the whole show, sitting comfortably in their seats. What made things worse last year was the rain that occurred during the parade. It was an offensive sight… the VVIP’s with their lackeys holding umbrellas over their heads and keeping them safe from the drizzle while the ‘war widows’ stood tall and dignified, getting drenched in the open. That image shall never go away from my mind.
I had pointed all this out in an article that had gone insanely viral…and justifiably so…and with a lot of supporters encouraging me, but at the same time also brickbats from the ‘Babudom’ who thought I had nothing better to do than point out such ‘silly’ issues. That didn’t stop me from voicing my opinion on something that I felt was wrong and needed to change.
I watched the parade with bated breath this year and was pleased to note that while the President stood along with the Chief Guest, French President Francois Hollande, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Parrikar rose as the widow came up on the podium. I can’t say the same for those seated on the opposite flank who clearly did not stand up as the occasion demanded. The Ashok Chakra was posthumously awarded to Lance Naik Mohan Nath Goswami of The Parachute Regiment for his extraordinary courage in CI Operations in the valley.
Evidently there is no form of clarity on the protocol for such an occasion with the blind leading the blind!! Protocol or no protocol, what would it take for the VVIPs to acknowledge the sacrifice made by the soldier to safeguard the values and freedom of his countrymen. Respect for the Fallen, is it asking for too much…
But we fail at that, time and again as seen in the latter half of the parade when the proud veterans who usually march down Rajpath were missing but were instead represented by a cheap cut-out on a tableau. That is a sad commentary on the attitude of the ‘babus’ in this country. The on-going veteran’s protests on One Rank One Pension (OROP) seem to be falling on deaf ears. Sadly the present Government has done nothing but made a mockery out of it.
May sense prevail… It is never too late. Change is good!!!