(The Indian army’s proposal for a three year volunteer enrolment could well allow the entry of questionable cadres who owe allegiance, not to India’s Constitutional values, but to majoritarianism and who are then miltarised further.)
Presently, the Indian defence establishment is ranked as the fourth mightiest army in the world after USA, Russia and China with Japan at the fifth place. It has approximately 3,544,000 on its rolls, 1,444,000 being on active duty with 2,100,000 as reserve personnel.[i] It is credited with innumerable military operations of glory like Bangladesh War 1971, the Kargil War 1999, surgical strikes in Pakistan occupied Kashmir 2019 etc. Indian Army rendered direct help to the Sri Lankan State in suppressing the LTTE; the Tamilian rebels (1987-90) and has been immensely contributing to the UN peace-keeping military operations in different parts of the world numbering more than 43. According to the Indian Army website "India is ranked, as the third largest troop contributor to the UN"[ii] contributing 2, 00,000 Indian troops.[iii]
Indian Army Keeps a Safe Distance: COVID-19 Pandemic
However, in the midst of the COVID 19 Pandemic driven lockdown when India continues to witness a devastation and mayhem only comparable to tragedies caused by the 1947 Partition, the 4th mightiest army in the world has rendered help which cannot be described even as cosmetic. This is sad but true.
Over the last two months –close to 60 days-- of the abruptly declared lock-down, the Indian State appears to have completely betrayed working class and poor Indians. In the absence of jobs, food, shelter, transport and health care millions of Indians have been left to suffer horrible destitution and even tragedy and loss. The stories are so horrendous that even the term ‘gut-wrenching’ is an under-statement to describe the prevalent hunger, the maiming and killings of migratory workers (it is a kind of racism that workers belonging to India, when they leave for work in different parts of the country, are described as migrant workers. This term is not used for those who join high-profile jobs or politicians however!)
The three wings of the Indian armed forces; the army, air force and navy have finest medical, transport and communication paraphernalia. It is therefore puzzling that all these were kept under the locked-down in face of the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic when India was in dire need of Army doctors, hospitals, vehicles, airplanes and high quality professional communication facilities. All major cities of India have the most modern military hospitals, which if they had been opened for Covid-19 patients, would have greatly lessened the unbearable pressure on the civil health services. If a small number of military doctors and nursing staff were deputed in critical areas, the sufferings and fatalities would have lessened.
The lock-down showed how migrant workers suffered and are suffering while trying to reach to their native places; road, rail services almost incapable of help. The mighty transport capacity available with the army would have made a real difference. The centralized and most modern surveillance system that the Indian armed forces possess; with their own satellites in space (the use of which enabled India was able to identify terrorist centres in Pakistan and destroy the same-- celebrated as 'surgical strikes') could have lessened the misery of devastated millions of working Indians! The hundreds of thousands that included pregnant women, children, old and disabled persons, whom we have seen walking on roads and rail tracks (many of them getting killed while undertaking these risky journeys) could have been identified and picked up in army vehicles or airplanes.
The majestic Indian army was reduced to playing puppeteer for the government. The Army intervened only to shower flower petals on the hospitals and army/navy/air force bands playing outside hospitals, which were treating the Covid-19 patients (despite warnings from the medical fraternity that this shower of flowers may be a serious cause of spreading the dreaded virus and also violate the 'no noise' rule in hospital zones). These actions were ostensibly called for with the noble objective to honour the 'warriors' against Covid-19. Instead, even a cosmetic intervention should have deputed a small number of medical and Para-medical staff in at least the worst affected areas, the Red Zones. In fact, in many countries of the world including African countries, armed have been deployed to fight the pandemic, which continue to play great pro-active role in this fight against the spread of the virus.[iv]
Indian Army Makes Public a 3-Year Military Training Plan During the COVID 19 Pandemic
Instead of active engagement with the civilian population since March 22, 2020, it is strange and puzzling that the Indian armed forces have remained isolated and insulated during the pandemic. Now, out of the blue, it appears that a plan of employing Indians for a 3-year voluntary ‘tour of duty’ is afoot.[v] According to a release from the Indian Army, “The proposal is a shift from the concept of permanent service/job in the Armed Forces, towards ‘internship’/temporary experience for three years. It is for youth who “do not want to make defence services their permanent vocation, but still want to experience the thrill and adventure of military professionalism”.
Explaining the rationale behind this innovative scheme the note states that the aim was to tap the "resurgence of nationalism and patriotism” amongst Indian youth and help reduce unemployment in India. The proposal also envisages that the earnings of these three years could be made tax-free and all those who would be part of 'tour of duty' could be given preference in public sector jobs as well as post-graduate courses. The note also stressed the fact that it would help to channelize youthful energy into a positive utilisation of their potential and that “rigorous military training and habits inculcated will lead to healthy citizenry”.[vi]
This crucial announcement espouses a policy decision, unheard of and not hitherto discussed or debated in Parliament or at the level of the Ministry of Defence. Interestingly, this announcement about a new mode and tenure of recruitment in the Indian Army was not made public by the defence minister, Rajnath Singh or Chief of Defence Staff of India, General Bipin Rawat but through a press-note of the Army. Army spokesperson Colonel Aman Anand confirmed that such a proposal was being discussed. The opposition political parties and media have not, so far at least, bothered to react to this proposal which may prove to be a defining moment for future of democratic-secular India.
The surreptitious issuance of this press note during the time of the Covid 19 pandemic, raises many important questions, the answers to which will determined the future course of democratic-secular Indian polity. The loud-mouthed claim that 3-year voluntary ‘tour of duty’ would help reducing unemployment is laughable. The claim gives the impression that out of millions and millions of unemployed Indian youth few millions are going to be absorbed under this scheme. How the Indian Army will be assisting the reduction of unemployment is revealed by the fact that the Army itself plans to reduce force strength by cutting 1.5 lakh jobs. In some sections the reduction is going to be as high as 20%.[vii]
Three Year Military Training for Nationalism, Patriotism and a Healthy Citizenry
Justifying the scheme Army note said that it was in response to the "resurgence of nationalism and patriotism” and “rigorous military training and habits inculcated will lead to a healthy citizenry”. Thus nationalism, patriotism and healthy citizenry are being equated with this Army training. Such slogans world generally heard during the World War II and presently can also be heard in totalitarian states like North Korea and Zionist Israel.
Hindu nationalist (read supremacist) icons borrowed the idea of militariastaion of Hindus from Mussolini and Hitler
The fact is that such a scheme has been part of the old Hindutva project namely 'Militarize Hindu Society' zealously promoted by leaders of Hindu Mahasabha and RSS. The well-known Italian researcher of Indian politics, Marzia Casolari has done pioneering work in tracing the fraternal links between the Hindu Mahasabha and RSS founders on the one hand and Fascism and Nazism which stood for militarization of societies. According to her pioneering work relying on the primary sources of the documents of the prominent Hindu nationalists, one of the aspects of Fascism which appealed most to Hindu nationalists was this, the militarisation of society.
Balakrishna Shivram Moonje, a mentor of the RSS founder, Keshav Baliram Hedgewar on his return from the Round Table Conference, Moonje regarded as the Dharmveer (Brave of the religion) made a tour of Italy (February-March 1931). There he visited some important military schools (Military College, the Central Military School of Physical Education, the Fascist Academy of Physical Education), highlight of the visit being a meeting with Mussolini.
Moonje praised the militarization project of Mussolini and planned to put into practice in India. He wrote:"India and particularly Hindu India needs some such institution for the military regeneration of the Hindus: so that the artificial distinction so much emphasized by the British, of martial and non-martial classes amongst the Hindus, may disappear…Our institution of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh of Nagpur under Hedgewar is of this kind, though quite independently conceived. I will spend the rest of my life in developing and extending this Institution of Hedgewar all throughout Maharashtra and other provinces."[viii]
As soon as he reached Pune, he gave an interview to ‘The Mahratta’ espousing his views. Regarding the military reorganization of the Hindu community, he stressed the necessity to ‘Indianise’ the army and expressed the hope that conscription would become compulsory and an Indian would be put incharge of
the defence ministry. He finally made a clear reference to the Italian and German examples in his diary: "In fact, leaders should imitate the youth movements of Germany and the Balilla and Fascist organisations of Italy. I think they are eminently suited for introduction in India, adapting them to suit the special conditions. I have been very much impressed by these movements and I have seen their activities with my own eyes in all details."
According to Moonje’s diary, an entry dated March 31, 1934, he himself, Hedgewar and Laloo Gokhale had a meeting, the subject of which was again the military organisation of the Hindus, along the Italian and German lines. Moonje told the gathering, "I have thought out a scheme based on the Hindu Dharm Shashtra which provides for the standardization of Hinduism throughout India... But the point is that this ideal cannot be brought to effect unless we have our own swaraj with a Hindu as a dictator like Shivaji of old or Mussolini or Hitler of the present day Italy or Germany... But this does not mean that we have to sit with folded hands until (sic) some such dictator arises in India. We should formulate a scientific scheme and carry on propaganda for it…"
According to Marzia Casolari, Moonje publicly admitted that his idea of militarily reorganizing Hindu society was inspired by the “military training schools of England, France, Germany and Italy.” Moonje’s ‘Preface to the Scheme of the Central Hindu Military Society and its Military School’ which he circulated among influential personalities, states this clearly: "This training is meant for qualifying and fitting our boys for the game of killing masses of men with the ambition of winning victory with the best possible causalities (sic) of dead and wounded while causing the utmost possible to the adversary."
Crucially, what Moonje meant by 'adversary' was not the external enemy, the British, but ‘historical’ internal enemy, the Muslims. In fact, this School was inaugurated by then Governor of Bombay State, Sir Roger Lumley. Moreover, this School helped the British in supplying Hindu youth for the World War II project. This military school was financed by two, well known apologists for the British: the Bhonsles and Scindias. Moonje gave a call to 'militarise Hindu society' to which these forces responded.
Contribution of Savarkar
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar went to the extent of organizing more than 100 recruitment camps for Hindus in the British Army when Netaji Subhash Chander Bose was trying to liberate India militarily from abroad. This was part of Savarkar's strategy to militarise the Hindus of India. Savarkar called upon Hindus “to flood the [British] army, the navy and the aerial forces with millions of Hindu warriors with
Hindu Sanghatanist hearts” and assured them that if Hindus recruited in the British armed forces, "our Hindu nation is bound to emerge far more powerful, consolidated and situated in an incomparably more advantageous position to face issues after the war— whether it be an internal anti-Hindu Civil War or a constitutional crisis or an armed revolution."[ix]
RSS Plan of the Cleansing of Muslims and Christians
The Rahstriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS) has, since its inception (1925) been working towards a one-point agenda; the cleansing of Muslims and Christians from India. Hedgewar, the founder of the RSS left the Indian National Congress because, during the struggle for India’s freedom, the leadership of the Congress stood for an-all inclusive India, within which Muslims would be, an integral and equal part of the emerging nation. Hedgewar's successor , Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar in his book, We or Our Nationhood Defined (1939) eulogizing the cleansing of Jews by Hitler made it clear that RSS would like to emulate it: "German Race pride has now become the topic of the day. To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic Races—the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for Races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by." [x]
There was no respite in the hatred towards Muslims and Christians even after the birth of independent India. Golwalkar, a Guru of Hate penned a chapter titled 'Internal Threats' to India. It appeared in the holy book for the RSS cadres, Bunch of Thoughts, the compilation of the writings of MS Golwalkar, the ideologue of the RSS, has a long chapter titled, ‘Internal Threats’ in which the Muslims and Christians are described as threats number one and two respectively. The Communists hold the honour of being ‘Internal Threat’ number three.[xi]
With Modi's coming to power in 2014 the Hindutva juggernaut ran amok (in ecstasy), with leaders from the RSS brazenly declaring that, by 2021, India would be cleansed of both Muslims and Christians.[xii] An aggressive campaign in the name of 'love-jihad', 'ghar-wapsi' and the cow was unleashed that even led to Muslims and Christians being lynched. Perturbed by this Hindutva frenzy, within the first year of Modi's rule, one of India’s most decorated policemen, Julio Ribeiro, former ambassador to Romania and recipient of the Padma Bhushan, a prominent national award wrote on March 17, 2015:
"Today, in my 86th year, I feel threatened, not wanted, reduced to a stranger in my own country. ..I am not an Indian anymore, at least in the eyes of the proponents of the Hindu Rashtra. Is it coincidence or a well-thought-out plan that the systematic targeting of a small and peaceful community should begin only after the BJP government of Narendra Modi came to power last May? It is tragic that these extremists [Hindutva zealots] have been emboldened beyond permissible limits by an atmosphere of hate and distrust. The Christian population, a mere 2 per cent of the total populace, has been subjected to a series of well-directed body blows. If these extremists later turn their attention to Muslims, which seems to be their goal, they will invite consequences that this writer dreads to imagine."[xiii]
Governor of a State Wants Civil War
Julio Ribeiro was right when he wrote that cleansing of Muslims was the goal of RSS cadres. This was corroborated by none other but a very senior RSS member and ‘ideologue’, also the Governor of Tripura, Tathagata Roy. On June 18, 2017, this RSS icon quoting another icon of RSS, Syama Prasad Mukherjee, wrote: "Syama Prasad Mookerjee wrote in his diary on 10/1/1946: 'The Hindu-Muslim problem won't b solved without a Civil War'. So much like Lincoln!"
Mind it; it was not some street ruffian who was baying for civil war against Muslims of India but an occupant of the highest constitutional office. When criticised for this opinion, he refused to withdraw the comment saying that he was only quoting SP Mookerjee. Incidentally, Mookerjee continues to be a great icon for RSS. Moreover, Modi government has continued patronising him (Roy) and no explanation has been sought from him.[xiv]
RSS Builds a Network against Muslims and Christians
According to international media reports, the RSS has been building a militant alliance with fascist Buddhist organisations in the South Asia, an alliance against Muslims and Christians. The New York Times in an editorial titled 'Deadly Alliances Against Muslims' dated October 15, 2014 disclosed sensational facts in this regard.[xv]
Baba Ramdev Starts a Security Agency to Protect Country’s ‘Assets’
It Is no coincidence that controversial and popular yoga guru, a Hindutva saint, one of the richest men in India and a darling of the RSS-BJP rulers, Baba Ramdev decided to start a private security agency under his Patanjali Yogpeeth Trust. It announced enlisting, "Guards from its 11 lakh yoga centres across India. Called Parakram Suraksha Private Ltd., the company will provide employment to the young and protect the country’s assets, SK Tijarawala, spokesperson of Patanjali Yogpeeth… There is a need for 50 lakh guards in India, he said".[xvi]
Why Ramdev ventured into security business is not difficult to understand. He has been brand ambassador of RSS preached masculine Hindu nationalism. In March 1916 he gave the war-cry for beheading all those who refused to chant 'Bharat Mata ki Jai'[xvii] It is no ordinary security agency. Ramdev started it to "provide employment to the young and protect the country’s assets". It is alleged to be a Hindu nationalist venture. With such outlets, RSS and other Hindutva organisations did not need to organize surreptitious arms training camps. Enroll into any of the 11 lakh yoga centres of Ramdev and get training in all kinds of arms. Unfortunately, there has been no state or non-state scrutiny of such Hindutva ventures.
It would be a sad day for democratic-secular Indian polity if the Indian army actually joins this project of militarisation of the majority community, facilitating directly or indirectly the Hindutva organizations' long hanging project of launching a civil war against the largest minority of India. It is crucial to understand that Hindutva’s love for religious strife suits the international enemies of India too. More than anything else, this scheme represents another serious threat to the existing democratic polity of India. In case, RSS-BJP regime loses power such cadres trained in sophisticated arms may be used to violently disrupt democratic processes that oust them from state power