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kashmir-human-shield

Many recent posts of mine on Facebook – especially those dealing with the vexing issue of our respected Indian Army using a Kashmiri, and by all accounts a genuine citizen out to exercise his franchise, have been met with strange and often strong reactions – virtually telling me that as a daughter and wife of two former Navy Chiefs I should not post any comment or piece containing negative comments with regard to our Armed Forces.

I have no doubt that I will receive more comments and advice on how and why I , as the spouse of a former Navy Chief and daughter of another Navy Chief, should be more circumspect about the kind of posts I put out, as I post an outspoken and well argued plea from Ashok Swain.and this piece by Saikat Datta.

I have two points to make clear.

First that I have an identity and persona of my own, and one which is quite separate from being merely “daughter of and wife of ” two former heads of the Indian Navy – of both of whom I am duly and justifiably proud . Neither my late father, Admiral Ram Dass Katari, the first Indian to become Chief of India’s Navy post independence, nor my husband, Admiral L Ramdas, ever imposed their views on what I should think, say or write. They always held that it was they and not me, who had signed on to the respective Navy Acts which they continued to honour for as long as they served and wore the uniform.

Both are men of high integrity, professionally outstanding, but who never hesitated to lead from the front in upholding the highest values of ethical and moral conduct. At the same time both men believed that their guiding compass was their own conscience, and they never held back from profering honest advice to their political masters – even if it went against what seemed to be politically expedient. Each in their own unique ways chose to strike out on their own paths – off the beaten track – but always in accordance with the highest ideals of democracy.

Like them, I too deeply respect the Constitution of this land which assures me as a citizen of India, the right to freedom of thought and expression – and lays down no prescriptive code by which my nationalism, patriotism or loyalty can be measured or judged by others – whomsoever they might be.

That is the yardstick I follow.

As an educator, I firmly believe that the fundamental responsibility of a Citizen of this country should be to ensure the well being of the last woman, man or child – be she a dalit, adivasi, Kashmiri or North easterner, and to keep our elected governments and ALL arms of the government, including the Police, the Armed forces and other such organs of state power, under scrutiny and ensure that they are acting with integrity and accountablity.

And to this extent I am of the opinion that AFSPA is anti democratic, that human shields are against universal codes of Humanitarian behaviour, and that as a nation that has signed on to UN Human Rights Charter, we are obliged to respect and follow certain minimum codes of conduct.

This is why I would like our thinking public to be exposed to points of view that are not either sitting on the fence or are clearly echoing the government position.

I am always ready to discuss the reasons for the stands I hold – and will democratically chose to disagree where necessary. But I am not willing to be lectured to from some non existent high moral ground about who is more ,or less, loyal and patriotic in upholding the state and flag.

Lalita Ramdas is social activist and former Chair of Greenpeace International

6 Comments

  1. K SHESHU BABU says:

    Kudos for her courage in exposing human rights violations by the government as well as the armed forces. Every person in the country should be protected and all the people must get the right of self determination. Issues should be resolved peacefully and with talks among various representatives

  2. Maj Gen Ashok Coomar (Retd) says:

    Major Gogoi accomplished a very complicated task without hurting a fly leave aside the “human-shield”. He may be blamed for human rights violation even though he saved precious human lives in a very difficult situation.Had he acted strictly with same spirit with which he is being blamed he should have used force which would certainly result in injuries or death(s) of at least a few without achieving much. As commander on the spot he was the best judge and he has proved it by result of his actions.
    Has Mrs Lalita Ramdas any alternative solution to offer which would have yielded the same result – no violence and 100% success – she must reveal it for future guidance of the armed forces.

  3. Col Ajit Singh Rana says:

    Their is always otherside of the coin. Go and spend few days with an Inf unit in Kashmir. Walk and talk with them, see them operate what all they face and you will stop talking all this human right etc. I also use to talk like you, but after my first tenure in CI ops in valley in 1991/92, i found that their is other side of human rights which no one talks about i.e. Armed Forces. Secondly you shouldn’t try to add weight and authority to your arguments by saying that you r a daughter and wife of an Ex navey chief. I am sorry you have no idea how indian infantry operates in kashmir vellay. To realise that you have to join one of the Inf unit in your next life.

  4. Major General(Dr) V S Karnik(Retired) PhD( Management) says:

    Saving human lives in danger , in a war like situation, and treating a human at that point of time for human rights are two different things. Mrs Lailta Ramdas ,m’am,,have you or a person like you ,ever faced an angry mob , in any city or town, in a peace situation.? I presume ,no. You will at that time forget idea of human rights. You have freedom of expression, because people like Major Gogoi are up in the front protecting all of us.

  5. BGV Kumar says:

    – Idealism does not find its place in practice. This is a universal truth. For example, borderless countries, free trade across any country, humans should forget religion and not fight. Rich and poor should be done away with and all humans should be equal monetarily and materially etc.
    – Democracy encompasses a lot of minor issues. Let us endeavor to set those right rather than tie up the sentiments of democracy to serious issues like terrorism, AFSPA and loosely coined word human shield etc. What a mockery and hypocrisy of democracy we have where people who should be a part of governance are pushed to the corner after every election for five years and repeat every five years!
    – One needs to be directly affected by acts of terrorism to feel the pain. Lose a son, brother, husband, father or a friend to terrorism to express theories of idealism.
    – One does not expect people from Service Fraternity to express these kind of free thinking.
    – Respected lady expresses unequivocally that she is an individual and not to be judged as a daughter or a wife of Admirals. There is dichotomy in her thinking as she goes on to describe their strong character with all adjectives of praise instead of getting on to the meat of her expression or thoughts.

  6. Dr. P.S. Sahni says:

    Apropos the comments from the serving/retired army personnel in response to the article by Lalita Ramdas – whom I have not met in the last twenty years; nor I am in communication with her – yet certain comments made in the critique by army personnel cannot be allowed to go uncontested. My memory goes back to the period 1984 when I was residing in Delhi. I am a Sikh by faith. During the November’84 genocide of Sikhs – when thousands of people of my faith were being burnt alive and the police and the ruling Congress-I were aiding, abetting, conspiring and collaborating in the massacre – the environment in Delhi was such that no non-Sikh could dare to take out a protest march (read peace march) against the killings. Such peace marches invited clashes between the peaceful protestors and the rioters/arsonists. The non-Sikh protestors were abused and stones were pelted at them. To put things in perspective, General J.S. Arora – self- confessedly admitted publicly – that he was scared of moving out of his house in Friends Colony, South Delhi during those days. The President of India, himself a Sikh was helpless. Khushwant Singh, the renowned writer was being persuaded to leave the country since Sikh lives were in danger. It was in such times that few people from the non-Sikh communities gathered their wits and decided to visit the Sikh victims of violence who were housed in make shift relief camps; these people organized themselves into ‘Nagrik Ekta Manch’ and organized the initial public protests against the anti-Sikh violence. These actions invited assaults; there were even death threats for those standing up on the side of the Sikh victims. It was in such difficult times that Lalita Ramdas, Jaya Srivastava, Gauri Chowdhry, Kalpana Mehta were easily the first few citizens of Delhi who were prepared to put their heads on the guillotine and carry on their work without caring for their lives or limbs. Their work continued for about seven years. Anyone of the three army personnel who have raised doubts on their courage of conviction has just to visit the Tilak Vihar Colony, New Delhi and talk to the victims (mainly Sikh widows with their children and grandchildren) to verify for themselves about the work done by Lalita Ramdas and her associates. These women did not belong to any political party, but were clear that they had to be on the side of victims. Later they ensured the filing of hundreds of affidavits from the Sikh widows before the Justice Misra Commission which was set up to enquire into the anti-Sikh violence. These three women and their other co-activists received a fresh round of threats for daring to file affidavits against named politicians, policemen, arsonists and looters. But none of them let their self-interest and self-survival come in the way of their work – which became a cause célèbre for them.
    During the 84’ violence, army appeared on the scene very late in spite of demand by the vocal section of the Sikh leadership in Delhi since day one of the violence. The army behaved in a passive fashion; at place the arsonists and looters continued with their ‘work’ while the army men looked on. I can say the army was not responsible for saving the life of even one Sikh in Delhi at that time. One has no grudge; actually even Sikh army personnel were being hounded and brutally killed while they were travelling in trains in North India. Equally true ‘peace warriors’ like Lalita Ramdas and six hundred more volunteers were able to put the broken lives of thousands of victims back in place and into the mainstream. I salute them belatedly. But for them some amongst the victims would have joined the ranks of separatists in Punjab; it is this role of these selfless workers which needs to be made the ideal for army men posted in conflict areas like Jammu & Kashmir.
    Personally as a Sikh I was shit scared of moving out of my house till 3rd of November, 1984 when volunteers of ‘Nagrik Ekta Manch’ escorted me to work in the relief camps where I could put my skills as an Orthopaedic Surgeon to some use – hopefully.