Sunday, 23 April 2017

Tej Bahadur, the Soldier Who Brought to Light the Abominable Living Conditions of Soldiery in Security Forces, is Sacked by the BSF

Sourav Bhattacharya/ 24.4.2017

Tejbahadur, the BSF jawan whose video about sub-standard quality of food served in his regiment, went viral in media, this January, has been sacked by the BSF after holding him guilty on various charges in a sham internal inquiry.

Justifying the outrageous and apparently vindictive action of the BSF, a senior BSF officer said “The action of dismissal of the jawan has been taken under the Border Security Force Act that is applicable to all the personnel serving in the paramilitary force”. “Yadav has been found guilty on certain charges of indiscipline including uploading the video in violation of the laid down procedures and rules. He has an option to appeal against the verdict within three months time”, the Officer added. After being sacked, Tej Bahadur claimed that the inquiry was conducted in most biased way and he would appeal in High Court against the decision.

On 9th January this year Tej Bahadur, a BSF soldier, then posted at the line of control in J&K, had uploaded a video showing the shockingly poor quality of the food served to the soldiers in the force. This video exposed how all the money allocated in the name of upkeep of the force was being gobbled by the officers in charge of administration of the forces. After a few hours of being posted, the video went viral on social media resulting into huge public outcry against extreme corruption inside the armed forces and the poor living conditions in barracks in which the soldiers were kept. The public anguish was so strong that even the corporate media that always maintains a mysterious silence on the issues of common man was forced to play the video on its TV channels.

As the video was being circulated on social and corporate controlled media, the BSF high command started to harass Tej Bahadur for his daring action and continued to pressurize him to downplay his own statement. However, given the public uproar, the Interior Ministry was forced to set up an internal inquiry to look into the complaint of Tej Bahadur. From its inception, Tej Bahadur has questioned the internal inquiry as high officials of the force itself were the chief perpetrator of all unfair and corrupt practices. Tej Bahadur had demanded a CBI inquiry into the matter.

On its part, from the inception of the incident, the BSF high command has responded with arrogance and bias to the allegations of Tej Bahadur, accusing him to be ‘habitual offender’, ‘drunkard’ ‘not of good conduct’ etc. shamelessly refuting his allegations of rampant corruption by high officials and maltreatment of the soldiery inside the security forces. The BSF rejected all allegations of harassment and sub-standard food as ‘baseless’.

While the video of Tej Bahadur was still making rounds amidst shamefaced denials by the BSF high command, another similar video of a CRPF jawan Jeet singh, then posted at Mount Abu, surfaced on social media on January 11. Addressing the PM, Jeet Singh complained about harsher working conditions and extreme deprivation inside his force, that included lowest pay without any pensions and one of the worst living conditions.

Left with nothing to refute, the CRPF only claimed that the video was older than Tej Bahadur’s and that they were in touch with the jawan and were looking into the matter. Downplaying the video, the Director General of CRPF claimed that "You always want a better life than what you have..that is what he is asking. He has no complaints from the force".

On 12th January yet another video, this time of an army Jawan, came out . In the video, Lance Naik Yagna Pratap, then posted in 42nd infantry brigade at Dehradun, burst out against the system of “Sahayaks” in the Army. The “Sahayak” system is outright slave system perpetuated for decades in the armed forces, where soldiers are attached to officers to do all kinds of menial jobs at their residences from washing the dirty linens to boot polishing etc. Yagna Pratap claimed that he had written to the Home Ministry, Defence Ministry and the PMO on 15th June 2016 to abolish the system of "sahayaks " in the army, but to no avail.

In the usual course however, the complaint of Yagna Pratap was sent by the PMO to his officers themselves ‘to look into the matter’. After this, Yagna Pratap was tortured and abused by the higher officials of the regiment to such an extent that he claims, "Had there been some other soldier in my place, he would have committed suicide by now”. He told that the Army has initiated a Court Martial against him on false charges to teach him a lesson. Yagna Pratap was forced to start a hunger strike, after which he was sent to the army hospital in Bareli. Finally, on his motion, the Court has asked the army and the Home Ministry to look into the matter.

All these incidents rip apart the bogus claims of good governance of the BJP led right-wing government and of the bourgeois democracy in general.

The right-wing BJP and the government under it, have used the notion of ‘soldier’ as a battering ram to beat down any civil protest against the most outrageous wrongs being done to the people by the government. Laced with a ‘hindu-nationalist’ rhetoric, the ‘soldier standing on the border’ has been the clever mantra of right-wing political establishment to counter even the most pressing issues related to livelihood, employment, health, education and poverty and to make the people swallow the most bitter bait of apparent loot and corruption.

The atrocious treatment of the soldiery at the hands of the officers is not in isolated incidents but a routine affair in all mercenary forces of the world. Despite all empty rhetoric of high moral grounds that the bourgeois army commands seek to invoke, the ground reality remains quite opposite. Soldiers are kept in most savage conditions amidst continuous maltreatment at the hands of the officers to break down even the last vestiges of any self-respect among them. They are publicly humiliated, kicked, and abused by the trainers to train them to submit to all kinds of indignity imposed upon them by the officers later. While the officers represent the elite class inside the army, the soldiery represents the poor and toiling mass.

Soldiers have refused to accept this inhuman bondage and have rebelled against these living conditions more than once shaking the regimes to their roots. There is a whole history of these rebellions. Even in modern history we come through innumerable of such rebellions from 1905 in Russia to 1946 in Indian Royal Navy and beyond. Most of these including the 1905 and 1946 naval mutinies in Russia and India respectively, that shook the foundations of respective regimes, were triggered by food issue.

Capitalist regimes of all kinds from bourgeois democracies to military dictatorships, keep the mercenary forces not only to defend the borders of their territories, the national states, against external aggression, and to engage in wars of regional domination to reinforce their profits and political hegemony, but also to suppress all internal protest and dissent, to keep the system of loot and exploitation intact inside the frontiers, intact and working. Armed forces are the bulwark of this assertion, inside and outside the borders.

The soldier to whom the elite capitalist and the officer appeals in the name of patriotism and nationalism in crisis, to advance its own selfish and sectarian ends of securing profits inside and outside the borders, the same soldier is repressed in the name of discipline, starved, humiliated and harassed in routine. The soldier who is instigated by his elite officer to kick and kill his class brethren as they speak out against their loot and exploitation by the capitalists, is himself kicked and disgraced by the same officer to keep him in check and control.

The soldiery in the armed forces, is recruited from the poor and toiling mass of the people by the military command of the rich and elites. The soldier is subjected to the officer and the civilian to the soldier through fear of the gun. The soldier is subjected to the same maltreatment in which he is trained to treat the civilians. Soldier stands to the Officer in the same position inside the force I which the worker stands to the capitalist outside the force. The composition and social relations inside the armed forces of a society are but the mirror image of the class alignment in the society itself.

Like the worker, the soldier also has no stakes in loot and exploitation carried out by his masters. The wars the elite rulers are engaged into and the repression they carry out upon their own people inside the borders, promises nothing to the soldier. The soldiers are used in these sectarian expeditions inside and outside the borders as cannon fodder in exchange for what can only be termed as pathetic living conditions for themselves.

The endless lust for profits and the infinite chase of capitalists after the loot and exploitation of natural and human resources worldwide, to capture territories and increase profits, gives birth to wars and conflicts worldwide in which soldiers are used as pawns on the chess board by the elites. Similarly they are used as battering ram to quench the mass protest against deprivation of their own countrymen by these capitalists of wealth and resources.

Soldiers who participated in the Iraq war and their families in UK have filed cases against the government under the then Prime Minister Tony Blair for using them in a war for Oil against Iraq in 2003, falsely presenting it as a war to save the humanity from WMDs. The conflict took around 5,00,000 Iraqi lives, while 179 British soldiers were killed, 4486 US soldiers lost their lives and more than 1000 lost their limbs. Similarly 2,345 US soldiers lost lives in war against Afghanistan, while more than 26,000 Afghan civilian were killed in the same conflict.

In the end, the officer is nothing but plain servant of the capital while the soldier is the caged victim. The soldiers all around the world live in pathetic conditions during the time of wars and even afterwards. 

The sinister design of elites, downplaying the real issues by empty rhetoric of ‘soldier’ and ‘patriotism’ was hit hard on its head by the exposure of the armed forces of the Indian state from inside. The soldiers have realized that their conditions are no better than that of the ordinary workers, working in the factories and mills. Their issues of livelihood, low pay, inhuman working and living conditions, and poor facilities are akin to the problems faced by the working people in the country and the world over.

In these exposures, the soldier is seeing with his own eyes that the officer class is ravaging them all and keeping them to animal existence. Behind all rhetoric of patriotism and discipline, that binds the workers and soldiers to the capitalists and the officers and makes them to continue to fight for the interests of the elite, lies the naked material class interests of these elites.

The right-wing saffrons who had remained in frontline of all verbal chorus to glorify the army, using it as a shield to all misdeeds of the elite government, are keeping silent upon persecution of the soldier and the conditions inside the armed forces.

While corporate media is keeping the news of dismissal of Tej Bahadur from BSF completely blacked out, none of the opposition party including the parties of the Stalinist left, have raised any voice inside or outside of the Parliament against the broad daylight victimisation of the soldier. 

For his liberation, the soldier has to resist and fight his elite officers as the worker fights against the capitalist. At its bottom, their struggle is the common struggle, for the common aims and against common enemy, a struggle of the poor and toilers against the rich and elites. Their common struggle has to seek its accomplishment only through solidarity between the soldier and the worker and with clear orientation towards a socialist revolution.

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