THE SAHID SYNDROME: SHOULD WE NOT THINK AFRESH?

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

What I propose to say is not meant to show any disrespect to anybody that dies on duty assigned by the State.

But what should one say if the way such persons are being projected as Sahids becomes increasingly an affront to Martyrdom?

In Orissa, in course of Navin Patnaik’s rule, the number of police personnel died on duty while fighting against left ultras has alarmingly increased.

Even as the collective body of police personnel attributes the repeated debacles to lack of proper planning and provision of appropriate ammunition by the government, the CM is in the habit of assuaging the grief of the family and the colleagues of the deceased by projecting him as a Sahid (Martyr) and making provisions of sumptuous sums of money from public exchequer and allotment of land in the capital city of Bhubaneswar to his family over and above government job to some of his heirs.

If linking the debacles to absence of planning and ammunition is not incorrect, this is an objectionable official bribe given to the legal heirs of the deceased to purchase their silence over the loss caused by the politico-bureaucratic misrule.

If there were no misrule and if there were ears to hear the grievances of the wretchedly poor hit hard by official recalcitrance, there could never have been any barrel in any hand to emit loud protests and there should never have arisen any occasion for any uniformed man to raise guns to silent that protest and to die on duty due to alleged lack of appropriate ammunition leading to his heirs being officially bribed to keep mum as hinted to above.

But more objectionable than the official bribe is the status of Martyr given to the deceased, be he in the Police or in the Army, who was in a salaried job to accept death as a part of duty assigned under a time scale of pay.

Because, Martyrs are only they who were or are never paid any salary for taking up the cause of their country.

Martyrdom belongs to Baji Raut and Bhagat Singh and their likes.

Salaried uniformed persons, whose official duty it is to die in action in failing to put the opposite party to death, should not be projected as Martyrs.

As long as there shall be exploitation, as long as there shall be swindling of peoples’ money, as long as there shall be private property sans ceilings, as long as there shall be private possession on assets of the Motherland given to her by Mother Nature, as long as capitalism shall stay active to disallow social ownership over means of productions, as long as administration shall remain addressed to benefit of self-seekers at the cost of the poor citizenry, there shall certainly grow the determination to get rid of that system of exploitation by any means. If the power that the masters of the system of exploitation enjoy remains theirs by use of bullets from the barrels of uniformed personnel, the victims of such power would certainly seek its extermination by mastering the use of barrels at their end. And, in the process, more and more men in uniforms may die; because, they shall be using weapons against salary payment whereas the left ultras, on societal commitment.

If all of them become declared Martyrs, it would be an increased affront to Martyrdom.

On the other hand, there is no uniformity in honoring uniformed men died on duty. If loss of one’s life on duty is compensated by money etc, there should be same amount of compensation in all occasions of death on duty. There is no uniformity. As is increasingly marked, the honor is always whimsical.

In absence of a Sahid Code, the uniformed men died in action against active opponents of exploitation are being wrongfully projected as Sahids. And, the misusers of power, who, by their solidarity with the rich have wrecked such havoc on the common man that to his perception the remedy thereto looks available through counter bullets, are using the occasion of bestowal of such Sahidhood to germinate emotional disapproval of the death of the uniformed man in the hearts of onlookers in calculated manners to use the same against the users of the counter bullets.

Thus the land of Orissa is being festered with capitalist virus that dilutes the importance of the word “Martyr” by bestowing Sahidhood upon persons in uniform, who die in their campaigns against the opponents of plutocratic exploitation.

It is not at all wrong to offer state honor to uniformed men dying on duty. Rather it is most welcome. But it is wrong to offer them Sahidhood or to accept them as Martyrs as that belittles the importance of Martyrdom to which selfless freedom fighters alone belong.

We may have no objection to benefits, if any, in shape of money, land and employment given to a bereaved family in lieu of the loss caused by a death on duty. But we strongly disapprove the way it is being given. On different occasions, we have observed, different amount of help was announced for different bereaved families, often suspected to have been influenced by caste, religion and political proximity.

Let this practice stop.

Let it be codified as to what should be the quantum of compensation against what sort of death on duty and what should be the protocol in offering the compensation or the honor. There should not be any scope of discretion; because in matter of expressing State’s gratitude to a person that dies on duty, there should be no scope for discrimination.

It is imperative, therefore, that the State should be saved from the Sahid-syndrome that is belittling the importance of Martyrdom and steps should be taken to codify how the State should honor a person who succumbs to counter bullets on duty so that there should be no discretion or discrimination in offering the State’s gratitude.

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