UNPUBLISHED LETTER TO THE EDITOR
WRITTEN SOMETIME IN MID NINETIES
This letter addresses a point of grave import inadvertently and tangentially raised by Capt Vishvasrao in his article ‘The Pouch’ in the June’95 issue of the INFANTRY.
The substantive point in his article is laudable- that the officer for the privilege of ‘leading men’ must validate his commission into the position of command through selfless action.
The point is also not the obvious one, which the Ordnance Corps remains oblivious to,- that of the requirement to relegate the present day pouches and allied equipment to the museum.
The point at issue is also not the wisdom of employment of ‘agents’ i.e. the encouragement of sahayaks to report on the goings on in the company. Such a manner of keeping a ear to the ground may be a matter of personal leadership style. Suffice it to mention that it may have an adverse impact on mutual trust and, therefore, on cohesion.
The point is in the morale related nature of the ‘blood splattered pouches’, referred to by the author. Surely we are beyond the Wild West stage of ‘notching’ the barrels with their respective score of human lives. We must be cautious in abetting false machismo- especially with the blood of fellow citizens. Brutalisation is a phenomenon that creeps in on the unwary to corrode professionalism. Let us remind ourselves of the message of the Gita- to act in a detached and impersonal manner. ‘Personal victory over a militant’ being ‘symbolised’ in any form is a manner of involvement in internal security situations that engenders the attitude of regarding the militant as the enemy- which has historically been proven as being a prelude to disaster.
The American experience in Vietnam is instructive in that one of the symptoms of disintegration of the American military was the collection of ‘trophies’, some so inhuman as the ears of the dead Vietcong. By no means is this meant to be a comparison with the elan with which soldiers as the author are performing a distasteful if necessary task. It is merely to alert us to the potential of losing our sensitivity, the precursor to loss of professionalism, in such situations characterised by the author as ‘real operations’. Therefore the apposite nature, though unintended by the author, of the subtitle of the article - ‘Vietcong to Bravo Company’.