EDITORIAL: Regressive ranting

NEW DELHI (The Statesman/ANN) - Most military men would prefer to face a volley of bullets rather than a microphone on a public platform.

“We are neither modernised nor westernised…” Had that been the stance taken in either Deoband or Nagpur it might have passed muster, but coming from the Chief of Staff of the Indian Army it betrays a mindset rooted in the conservative.

For linking “gays” and those committing adultery to being modern/ western and in violation of regulations, and threatening to invoke penal provisions of an obsolete Army Act, only echoes Gen Bipin Rawat’s thinking that his force is still not ready to accept women in combat roles. May be such regressive ranting will be lapped up by misogynist politicians ~ Rahul Gandhi has just joined that club after Nirmala Sitharaman ripped his Rafale allegations to shreds in the Lok Sabha ~ but it helps explain why the cream of Indian youth recoils at the thought of a career in uniform. That the Chief has scant respect for other institutions of the democracy is confirmed by his making light of two landmark verdicts of the apex court decriminalising homosexuality and adultery. It is true that soldiers do not enjoy the same freedoms as folk in civvy street, yet can a fourstar general treat judicial pronouncement in such cavalier fashion? And simultaneously buck the global trend of the military accepting more liberal social norms? Not that his tough talk will eliminate gays from the Army, just that fewer will “come out” ~ is hypocrisy a noble quality? When stressing that soldiers deployed in forward areas feel safe if their wives live in “protected” areas, Rawat also falls back on yesteryear’s thinking that women have no control of their bodies? Or is he fuelling the fallacy that Army wives are “loose”? The olive-green community could do with more enlightened leadership.

Most military men would prefer to face a volley of bullets rather than a microphone on a public platform. Bipin Rawat relishes the latter and seems to come armed with something outrageous to dangle before the media. He allowed his Army Day press conference ~ no “live” television coverage was permitted ~ to be dominated by sex-related issues rather than suggest a less-muscular approach on the insurgency in Kashmir, which points to the over-hyped surgical strikes impacting only BJP admirers (few militants ran “helter-skelter”) and offered limited hope for upgraded welfare measures for the troops. Only days earlier he had provoked another storm when advocating a dialogue with the Taliban ~ the MEA was quick to reject his foreign policy “expertise” ~ while insisting on speaking only with the gun in the Kashmir Valley.

Back to “gays” in the Army: surely it will require the collective thinking of the military leadership to formulate fresh policies in the light of court rulings: The government is mulling over the larger issue but the General has opted for pre-emptive action. And has ensured that archaic attitudes continue to call the shots.

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