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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2701

Suicides in the Army

By Sarla Handoo - Syndicate Features

The latest from Jammu and Kashmir is that another soldier, a Naik of the Territorial Army, has committed suicide in Bhadarwah area of Doda District. He shot himself dead. Only days before, a Jawan, also of the Territorial Army, shot himself dead, in Pattan area of Baramulla. Devinder Singh reportedly committed suicide inside an Army camp by using his service rifle.

As recently as August 2, a CRPF Jawan Gajender Singh killed himself inside another camp in Karan Nagar in Srinagar. Around the same time, an Army Jawan was shot dead by his senior colleague in Bhimber Gali sector of Rajouri District near the LOC.

In the recent years, Jammu and Kashmir has been witnessing increasing number of fratricidal killings and suicides. Over 450 soldiers have committed suicide and another 100 were killed by their colleagues during the last five years.

This certainly is a cause for concern. Not only does it need a serious effort to know the root cause for this but it also needs adequate remedial measures to sort it out. One single most important factor cited for this situation is the stress. The jawans are posted in difficult areas for long periods, without adequate facilities which cause tensions resulting in suicides and killings.

The Defence Institute Psychological Research has done a survey in this regard. In its latest report the institute has thrown some light on both the causes and remedies which need immediate consideration. It says that the jawans are fighting an invisible enemy in Kashmir and the North- East which puts additional burden on them as against an open warfare.

Indeed they are supposed to follow all rules and regulations to ensure that no innocent person is harmed during the anti insurgency operations. At the same time they have to come out with results. Quite often the two do not go hand in hand with each other leading to complications. The report suggests psychological indoctrination for this purpose. At no stage should they feel that they are fighting an endless or a purposeless battle which can only demoralize them. It is therefore essential that each individual soldier is “indoctrinated” to fight for the cause and the leaders must ensure that the group morale is kept high, the report suggests. This requires enhancing the leadership qualities through frequently organized proper training programmes.

The army has also started Yoga classes for the jawans in terrorist infested areas to reduce their stress. Measures have also been initiated to facilitate the Jawans in the field areas. These include liberal grant of leave, frequent formal and informal interaction between Jawans and officers and strengthening of the reporting and feedback systems.

Another important area which needs to be attended to is the problems the jawans face back home. Being away from their families for long times and in difficult situations, they are bound to be worried about their families. A mechanism needs to be evolved so that this aspect too can be addressed.

Mobile teams have already been pressed into service to ensure regular visits by psychologists to Army camps to see that advance action is taken wherever required. Plans are a foot to have at least one such psychologist for every one thousand troops in position. JCO’s are also being trained for deployment as councillors in specific areas.

While these measures are indeed welcome it is surely not enough. Indian army is working in terrorist infested areas in Kashmir and the North East for about two decades now. If they feel fatigued, that is only natural. The least that can be done is to ensure time bound postings to such areas. This will ensure their return to peace areas at the completion of the tenure without any hitch and botheration. It will also increase their operational efficiency so important in the fight against highly motivated and well equipped terrorists.

Alongside these welfare measures, punishments are also being awarded to the guilty for their irresponsible acts by summary courts- martial. These vary from death sentences and life imprisonments to incarceration for lesser periods, depending on the circumstances in which the crime was committed. Judgments are delivered on fast track basis to ensure speedy justice. In a recent case two jawans were sentenced to death. In both cases the jawans had killed their seniors in a fit of rage.

Not always does the killing take place because of the stress and strain. In one case a signal man who was just one month old recruit, killed his three colleagues. Obviously, a month old recruit could not be expected to take such a drastic step just because of the rigours of duty. In its judgment the court accepted that the act had been committed under “grave provocation”. The three soldiers he killed were found to have undermined his “self esteem and self holding”. That is where the training aspect comes in, to develop behavioural and attitudinal issues.

So, while on the one hand it is important to address the problems faced by the jawans in the filed by taking preventive steps , on the other hand it is equally important to punish those in time who indulge is such activities through . If this two- pronged strategy is followed in good earnest the issue of fragging, fratricide and suicides can become a thing of the past.

- Syndicate Features -

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