The army must press for prosecution of the criminals and ensure that the next-of-kin of Lance Naik Ved Mitra Chaudhary gets due legal justice and full pension
A global survey on attitudes to democracy conducted in India by Lokniti at the Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in 2013 and titled “Democracy in India: A Citizens’ Perspective”, mentioned
that: “As in 2005, political parties were the least trusted political institutions, and the police the least trusted unelected institution. Trust in Parliament, while low, rose between 2005 and 2013, while the Army continued to be the most trusted institution. The civil service was perceived as the most corrupt, more so than local, State and Central governments
”. Thus, citizens' opinion in relative terms, of the trustworthiness of the institutions of government, specifically, the political parties, the police, the army (meaning, of course, the Armed Forces) and the civil service (bureaucracy), is unequivocal.
How did this “least trusted institution” deal with the “most trusted institution last week? An area near New Delhi's Jantar Mantar is allowed by government for protestors to demonstrate peacefully with the permission of Delhi Police. Military veterans have been staging a peaceful and dignified relay fast for over two months at Jantar Mantar to press their decades-old demand for One-Rank-One-Pension (OROP). Briefly, veterans argue that the Koshiyari Committee appointed by Parliament has agreed to the validity of OROP, the Supreme Court has agreed to its justice, and successive governments have agreed to its provision. That is, the legislative, the judiciary and the executive – the three pillars of our Constitution – have agreed to the veterans' OROP demand. The veterans' straightforward demand is for immediate implementation of OROP. The most adversely affected veterans at Jantar Mantar are old, many over 80, many of them having fought in the wars in 1962, 1965 and 1971 for the country's security and sovereignty.
Serving personnel of the Armed Forces and veterans are linked by an organic bond because of military tradition, many serving soldiers being children of veterans, and all serving men one day becoming veterans. And as a rule, soldiers carry their discipline and codes of conduct into civilian life after retirement.
On the morning of 14 August 2015, Police moved into Jantar Mantar area in New Delhi in preparation for Independence Day, reportedly to evict demonstrators who could pose a security threat, and manhandled many veterans who peacefully resisted. This was police violence against ex-soldiers who have defended the sovereignty and honour of our country, and who have been continually called out by governments over the decades in “aid of the civil power” to do what is very often a police job, due to the repeated failure of governance by the politician-bureaucrat-police combine.
The responsibility for ordering eviction lies with the Union Home Ministry, which controls the Delhi Police. Since police permission had been taken by the veterans to hold peaceful demonstration, the Police was well aware that veterans were among those at Jantar Mantar. Government considering veterans as a security threat and police manhandling them was deeply humiliating to the veterans.
Thus, in terms of the foregoing citizens' opinion, the “least trusted unelected institution” inflicted physical violence on peaceful members of the “most trusted institution” at the behest of the political leadership conveyed by orders of the “most corrupt” institution.
On 16th August, in Haradev Nagar locality of Meerut, a group of five youth were misbehaving with a girl. An army man, Lance Naik Ved Mitra Chaudhary, who happened to be passing by, stopped and chased away the miscreants to save the girl's honour. However, sadly, minutes later, the miscreants returned with rods, bricks and more accomplices, attacked Chaudhary, and beat him to death
This incident reinforces the citizens' trust in the institution of the Army, exemplified by Lance Naik Chaudhary's courageous and selfless act. The murder of Lance Naik Chaudhary is being investigated by the police, who are reported to have detained some persons for investigation.
Prosecution of criminal charges has far too frequently been ineffective, because of shoddy criminal investigation and/ or the prosecution being influenced by the accused and/ or prosecution witnesses turning hostile under influence of the accused through money-power or muscle-power or their combination, namely, powerful contacts. Thus often, the police (the least-trusted unelected institution) and the bureaucracy (the most corrupt institution) do not merely deny justice to the victim of crime, but also often enough succeed in helping the accused to get acquittal due to lack of evidence by incompetent or deliberately shoddy investigation, or inadequate prosecution not excluding collusion with the defending counsel. Many examples can be quoted for serious crimes like rape, murder, manslaughter, etc.
Lance Naik Ved Mitra Chaudhary was a courageous upholder of morality and law, who did the right thing instinctively. The fate of the case of his murder in the hands of corrupt, untrustworthy, callous and complicit institutions of governance remains to be seen.
Most large social institutions (some named above in terms of citizens' trust) pursue objectives other than the ones they proclaim, because of the mal-influence of powerful persons with personal agendas. They try to do the wrong thing better, and this exacerbates the wrongness. It is much better to do the right thing inefficiently than the wrong thing efficiently, and morality and justice must always come before efficiency.
The outcome of police investigation into the murder of Lance Naik Ved Mitra Chaudhary, the time frame in which it is done, and the speed and earnestness of the criminal investigation system need to be watched, primarily because of the influence that lumpen elements and political parties have on the police criminal justice system.
The army needs to actively press for rapid and honest investigation and prosecution of the criminals, ensure that the next-of-kin of Lance Naik Ved Mitra Chaudhary gets due legal justice and full pension, and award him due posthumous honour for courage in upholding the highest military traditions and reinforcing citizens' trust in the army, at the cost of his life.
(Major General SG Vombatkere, VSM, retired in 1996 as Additional DG Discipline & Vigilance in Army HQ AG's Branch. He holds a PhD degree in Structural Dynamics from IIT, Madras. He is Adjunct Associate Professor of the University of Iowa, US, in international studies. With over 400 published papers in national and international journals and seminars, his current area of interest is strategic and development-related issues)