by Shrey Padhi, PIE, 2nd Year
The bravery of our armed forces is what stands between the citizens of India and the destruction that is brought upon them by militant and terrorist groups who follow extreme ideals to achieve liberation from the atrocities of their own lifestyle. Around the world, multiple groups have taken up arms and are a source of chaos, slowly turning into massive wars with numerous casualties. Their actions, often sponsored by the countries they inhabit, continue to cause fear in the hearts and minds of civilians as they brainwash locals to follow their path of political extremism.
The much-hailed return of Wg Cdr Abhinandan Varthaman from Pakistan is not merely the tale of a pilot forsaking his life for the country, but one of true grit, confidence and the ability to not give in, personifying the New India her citizens have come to know and grow proud of.
On 14 February 2019, forty CRPF jawaans were killed in a terrorist attack at Pulwama, Jammu & Kashmir, claimed by the extremist group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). The attack was met with remorse and anger, as the Indian Government led a global effort to create pressure on Pakistan to act on the terrorist organisations it hosts. On 26 February, the Indian Air Force carried out preemptive strikes on JeM facilities in Balakot, Pakistan. This was followed by a retaliatory attempt from the PAF on 27 February, in which an aerial combat ensued on the border. The result of the aerial combat was borne heavily by the Indian Air Force as Wg Cdr Abhinandan Varthaman’s fighter jet took heavy damage, after which he ejected his jet and descended near a village in Pakistan.
For the people of India, the knowledge and sight of an Indian officer held captive in foreign territory was no less enlightening than heartening. Even for citizens who had been warmongering for the greater part of two weeks, the sight brought home the horrors of war. It is never armchair strategists or supposed studio experts that suffer the travails of unrest at our borders- it is the forces and their families. India’s defence is, and has always been, its last bastion, never its first preference.
Over the next sixty hours, as various videos surfaced of Wg Cdr Abhinandan under captivity, the world stood to marvel at his composure in the face of endless adverse possibilities. His percipient understanding of what one’s captors were and weren’t to be informed about stood to testify for the professionalism of our officers; his acknowledgement of the enemy forces he had been up in arms against not long ago stood for his own rectitude.
In more ways than one, the equanimity and conscientiousness exhibited by Wg Cdr Abhinandan Varthaman exemplifies the spirit of New India- an India not afraid to demand her rights and refusing to retreat on her values and ideals. The return of Wg Cdr Abhinandan is a lesson in discipline, restraint and the pride of being Indian, even as it reinforces the incumbency on each citizen to remember that it is the forces that fight the war, not we.