Who can forget the precious lives snatched away in the heinous 26/11 Mumbai attacks? Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, the army commando who died, saving many lives, etched his name in the annals of history. The terrorists were killed, all except Kasab, who made the mistake of being caught alive. Today in jail, he lives in celebrity comfort, with much money being spent to keep him alive. The pampering has made him arrogant, as he spurns questions in court, behaving like a brat. He couldn’t be safer elsewhere in the world, as attempts continue to keep him alive till he is sentenced to death!
Mark Antony remarked, “The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with the bones!” Sandeep Unnikrishnan became a national hero after martyrdom. The sight of the bereaved mother leaning against her son’s body, weeping pitifully, still plays on people’s minds. His father came across as a strong man, stoically keeping his composure in public. A war of words with a public figure created headlines, but the nation sympathised with him. The compensation awarded by the state to the bereaved parents on the death of their son was `3 lakh — a sum which it thought adequate to wipe their tears.
The agony of the victims succumbing to spurious liquor mixed with battery acid and other unmentionables has often been highlighted. The recent Mallapuram tragedy, in Kerala, was the latest case in line. The culprit was methyl alcohol in the toddy, and killed 22 persons. The hooch capital had proved its prowess once again. The blame game saw the government point fingers at officials concerned, and the Opposition trashing the excise minister for supposedly sporting a Nelson’s eye towards illicit liquor trade.
A strongly worded message flashed via e-mail and gathered momentum, snowballing into a public outcry. The aforementioned government had awarded Rs 5 lakh as compensation to the liquor tragedy victims, a laudable gesture indeed. However, the message being sent to the youth of the country underlined that it was foolish to join the Indian Army and sacrifice their life for their country. In fact, it was more honourable and profitable to consume illicit liquor and die.
Death can come in many ways, but is there any doubt that a man in the defence services deserves to be honoured, as he spends a lifetime, standing guard over the mountains, valleys, hills and seas, ensuring his country is not attacked? Living in uninhabitable conditions, he faces danger from within and without, standing indomitably to safeguard the nation’s future by risking his present. Martyrdom stands a shoulder’s length away, there is a bullet with his name somewhere, yet he does not flinch. The respect he commands is tremendous, as the nation salutes him for his courage and patriotism.
Sadly, this does not translate into monetary gains! He ends up with less compensation than a man who ambles into a bar, consumes illicit liquor and falls by the wayside. What has the latter done for the greater good of the nation? He might have been the best son, husband and father. But when one thinks of a young war hero, the only son of his parents, who ends up in a coffin draped with the tricolour, surely there is a strange mismatch of sentiments shown to him by the state’s lawmakers.
The adage, ‘The crying child gets milk’ seems to be all too true. Soldiers do not cry aloud, and nor do their loved ones. That, maybe, is their only mistake, but a costly one at that!
Published in the New Indian Express - November 12th, 2010