Honouring our armed forces – a people’s movement inspired by the PM

This Diwali, there was a special effort from the government to put the soldiers in the forefront of national consciousness. The Prime Minister himself celebrated Diwali amidst troops deployed on the remote frontiers, just as he had for the past two years. In addition, this year there was a drive to connect the soldiers, with people they fight to defend, via the ‘Sandesh to Soldiers’ campaign. People were encouraged to send their message to soldiers via social media and through the prime minister’s website and app, to express their feelings and regard for those who were far away from their homes during the festival, keeping us safe in ours to celebrate. People were also exhorted to light one lamp specially in the memory of the martyrs who had laid down their lives fighting for the nation.

Motivated by the Prime Minister’s call the residents, of 1200 MIG Flats in Rajouri Garden, New Delhi, led by Sanjay Bhatia, a social activist and a team of young boys and girls of the area, decided to take this a step further and honour the ex-servicemen living in their colony as well. On the evening of Deepawali, 30 October, the residents held a gathering in the central park and feted the ex-servicemen residing in the colony. There were several of them, varying in rank from Captain to Colonels, including a Vir Chakra winner. Most of them had taken part in 1962 and 1971 wars, and they narrated their memorable and exciting experiences. Bouquets were present to each officer by the Leader of the House, South Delhi Municipal Corporation of Delhi, Subhash Arya before each resident present lighted a diya for the fighting soldier.

This small gesture by the residents of one colony in Delhi meant so much to those elderly veterans who have been living unknown and unnoticed amidst them for years. Not only did it make them feel special on that day, it also helped the rest of the colony to recognise them. With the result that now, when they step out for a walk in the colony, every single person they encounter exchanges greetings with them.
This is an example of how small initiatives by the government can be taken even further by people themselves. While the government initiatives covered those who were serving, and those who had laid down their lives, a large number of people who served the nation but don’t fall in either category were included in this expression of thanks. How wonderful it would be if this idea is widely propagated, and emulated everywhere across the country. This would bring the people closer to the heroes amongst us, people who spent the prime of their lives in service of the nation, and our now spending the evenings of their lives living amidst us in unnoticed, unsung oblivion.
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This was first posted on my blog http://swordarm.in/?p=1683

A former Army officer, now a Learning and Development consultant, Author of ‘Delhi Durbar 1911 – The Complete Story’, ‘Riding the Raisina Tiger’, ‘Brave Men of War – Tales of Valour 1965’ and ‘In the Line of Fire’. Currently also a research fellow at Ministry of Defence, engaged in writing official history of India’s participation in First World War. Blogs at swordarm.in

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