Social Media, it seems, is the new weapon of choice for those who seek the attention of their seniors, the government and the nation at large, with instant stardom thrown in for good measure. While dwarfing the mainstream media it has become the new normal in sourcing of news.
In past few days, slew audio-video messages have been posted by serving personnel of Armed and Central Armed Para-Military Forces (CAPF) on various social media platforms, overwhelming the Indian psyche with reportage of so-called discrimination, neglect and despair.
The videos were quick to catch the fancy of news-hungry mainstream media which triggered off a sensationalist TRP race complete with shrill debates on the distressing plight of Indian soldiers.
Our proactive electronic media went a step ahead and brazenly brought in close family members of the soldiers to further certify their versions and plead for redress, without realising that in presenting despondency to the world, they were not only shaming their government, the robust security establishments but every Indian too.
The scathing blitzkrieg against the government, Armed Forces and the CAPF that passed off as “breaking news” was low on reality and holistic journalistic investigation. It, nevertheless, attempted to create an impression that national security was at stake and that forces were incapable of giving fair redress to the aggrieved personnel.
As a result, what started as the airing of personal grievances by a Border Security Force (BSF), Constable Tej Bahadur Yadav and should have been nipped in the bud, provided an apt platform to many fence sitters who followed suit.
The first video uploaded by Constable Tej Bahadur Yadav contained messages involving long duty hours, difficult service conditions in snow bound areas, the poor and inadequate quantity of food and above all allegations on superiors of selling entitled rations.
What the furtively crafted message did not contain is the fact that no unit of BSF is deployed in extreme High Altitude Areas (HAA). There are only four to five units in Kashmir and that too under the operational control of the Army. In any case, nobody forced Tej Bahadur to join the BSF as it is a voluntary force. From his physical appearance, Tej Bahadur did not look undernourished, starved or ill-equipped.
The second clip to be uploaded on YouTube was by one Ajit Singh of CRPF. His message smacked of being a carefully packaged communication intended to build pressure on the government to equate CAPF with Indian Armed Forces. The timing, content and conspiring nature of the clip left very little to one’s imagination. What followed was the predictable defense of Mr Durga Prasad, DG CRPF, wherein, he came close to supporting the demands made by Ajit Singh on the pretext of expression of aspirations.
It is a well-known fact the consequent to 4th Central Pay Commission (CPC), CAPF has been working towards gaining parity in terms of perks, privileges, status and recognition with the Armed Forces. Successive CPCs, mostly steered and managed by IAS/IPS lobby have managed to reduce the gap to a great extent.
The DG, CRPF has now attempted to achieve for CAPF what perhaps the government has declined. Curiously, many in CAPF and media carry an impression that CAPF today are performing a much more difficult task than the Armed Forces. The fact is that when all organs of the government fail including the CAPF, the Armed Forces of the nation are called upon to deliver and they have not let the Nation down ever. It is good to see Mr Durga Prasad, supporting the aspiration of his organisation, but what about aspiration of the nation from its CAPF? Seldom has the media sought performance accountability from CAPF but the parity debate is given centre stage.
Two to three messages uploaded by military personnel questioning the system of “Sahayaks” or Buddies prevalent in Indian Army are also doing the rounds. The discontentment of a few individuals cannot be allowed to affect well established military traditions of an army that thrive on the officers-men relationship.
The soldiers, obviously disgruntled, found the opportune moment to express their grievances fully comprehending the force multiplier impact the hawkish electronic media will provide to such messages and enhance its reach.
The message did reach the highest levels in the Armed Forces but was fittingly blunted and discredited by COAS during his media interaction on the eve of Army Day by explaining the concept of Buddy system in the Army.
Regretfully, what has got obscured because of the fierce media coverage over the last few days is the issue of growing indiscipline amongst rank and file. Aggressive media coverage has given the wind to blatant insubordination. A closer scrutiny of these individual cases and follow-up will reveal a completely different picture. Media has the power to shape opinions, building pressure and influencing policies, however, with power comes responsibility which in the instant narrative is missing.
Uniformed forces pride themselves on high standards of professionalism, ethos and above all good discipline. The reality is that both BSF and Army as also other CAPF have a fairly robust redress system. In this instance, some disgruntled security personnel with enough time on their hands to indulge in social media gossip seem to have succumbed to the temptation of gaining immediate attention.
The newly acquired shoot and scoot culture of creating “Sensationalism” in reporting for the sake of TRP may end up harming the strongest pillars of Indian democracy, if not curtailed.
Sadly, in a news obsessive nation, patience for going to the bottom of an issue and seeking the truth is not a virtue. This particular narrative has invited indiscipline in the uniformed forces and has dented the image of forces which are already struggling to recruit quality manpower to their fold.
Finally, it is for the citizens of the nation to decide whether they can allow their pillars to be hounded is this manner and the quality they seek to maintain their security forces.