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General Hasnain and I discuss the requirement of strict adherence to human rights by the military even while operating under stressful conditions.
The co-authored piece has appeared in The Tribune today.
To put the record straight, the first picture was utterly detestable and the second was perhaps articulated out of context after culmination of a military operation subsequent to which the dead body of the terrorist had been tied by a rope and flipped to ensure the disposal of explosive which could put troops to risk.
On opposition to the circulation of the pictures, we were, inter alia, informed by self-declared experts that the dragging of the body as seen in the picture was a Standard Operating Procedure SOP in counter-insurgency operations and also that terrorists deserved no mercy.
Of course the commentators forgot in the bargain, that firstly, the picture was not that of the actual SOP being carried out since the same is carried out by a rope at least 30 feet long, and secondly, a dead body ceases to be that of an enemy or a terrorist and is never mistreated, unless we are competing in barbarism with a neighbour of ours.
Needless to state, in this case too, the body may not have been mistreated but the presence of civilians with cameras in such a zone is worrisome. So why do we feel such pictures should not be circulated? If we dig deep into the issue, such actions can have deleterious repercussions.
To begin with, such pictures are bound to be used by inimical elements to spread misinformation about our forces thereby depicting them in less than favourable light.
Let us not forget that these are times of psychological-operations where messing with the minds of people and injecting hatred is a more potent tool than the gun.
We just cannot afford to be an enabling device for the enemy in this dastardly environment. Such pictures, especially the one with a civilian with a corpse, can also lead to a vicious tit-for-tat cycle of violence with brutal photographs and videos being circulated which has been seen elsewhere in the world and is best avoided.
This is a dangerous proposition. It regulates our existence and acts as a shield towards misuse of power by any person in authority. What we have always clamoured for, however, is a balance and equal respect for the rights of the men and women in uniform.
Had there been an absence of rule of law, the logic professed for terrorists could well be extended to any criminal or perceived criminal thereby justifying mob mentality.
In fact, the Indian Army was one of the first armies to have incorporated Human Rights training and monitoring and it would also be in the fitness of things if the military, institutionally rising above any popular sentiment, corrects the perception on social media when it threatens our basic ethos.
The Indian Army has always guarded against desecration of bodies.
An apt example is of Kargil wherein, in the middle of the battle, the bodies of the enemy were not only handed over to Pakistan but also saluted by our troops. True, those were bodies of enemy combatants and a direct parallel with terrorists may not be apposite, however let us not forget that this happened despite the most unsoldierly conduct on the body of Late Captain Saurabh Kalia.
Some provided examples to us as to how other nations dealt with such situations. But it may come as a surprise to many that most democracies are very sensitive to this subject. Contrary to popular perception, Israel absolutely forbids disrespect to dead bodies and professes very strict rules of engagement, including prohibition of usage of human shields and maltreatment of bodies which were banned by its Apex Court and dutifully followed by the Israel Defence Forces.
Even many other African States which have faced gruesome ethnic violence now provide for protection of dead bodies. The battle zone is not mathematical. There would be a variety of situations which would require split-second decisions.
Therefore imposing a zero-error environment might result in inhibiting the initiative of troops. However, there are aspects where there is no compromise. The true mettle of a soldier only comes to fore under stressful situations where he or she must not stray from military values.Langston Hughes was first recognized as an important literary figure during the s, a period known as the "Harlem Renaissance" because of the number of emerging black writers.
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