Motherland: The Indian Army’s interfaith harmony is the antidote to their country’s problems of division.
It was in 2006 when I was attending the national defense college with the Indian military in New Delhi.
The one-year tour gave me an opportunity to mix with a blend of civil and military officers.
I was deeply touched by their professionalism, maturity, unflinching patriotism, and human qualities.
Out of a good number of participants from around the world, we were 12 Muslims.
As the course started, we had apprehension about whether we shall be able to offer our Friday prayers.
As the lunch break would not suffice to make a trip to the masjid at quite a distance.
I approached the Commandant, Air Marshal PP Rajkumar, who was exceedingly kind.
That was really very magnanimous, and we all became so grateful for this gesture.
Where the Air Marshal went out of his way to help us.
Some of us, being practicing Muslims, chose to eat only vegetarian dishes during lunch.
Which didn’t escape the eyes of the Air Marshal.
He called the Messing Officer and ordered us to serve us halal meat.
The next day onwards, there used to be meat served, labeled halal.
We were deeply touched.
On another occasion back in 2000, when attending a training course with the Indian Army.
At a garrison named Ahmed Nagar in Madhya Pradesh, during an official tour on a Friday.
A few foreign Muslim officers approached the Chief Instructor Brigadier RPS Bhanndary for permission.
He not only allowed us to visit the masjid but detailed an armed escort of soldiers in a pick-up truck.
As we prayed, it started raining all of a sudden, and the soldiers got drenched.
We felt sorry for them and had no words to thank them for the sacrifice they made.
Another anecdote I am very much tempted to share is one where during the month of Ramadan.
While I was visiting a military installation in Ladakh, a mess havildar was waiting with my meal do.
This I state only to exemplify the kind of empathy Indian armed forces nurture towards people.
The Indian Army has a concept they call MMG: Mandir, Masjid, Guru Duara.
In many army units, I have seen these three installations at the same complex.
Soldiers belonging to their specific faith worship in their own way, without any inhibitions.
The Indian Army employs religious teachers of all major religions for the soldiers.
The beauty of the system is as such that you may find a Muslim moulavi and a Hindu purohit.
The authorization of such religious teachers depends on the number of soldiers of that particular religion.
If the number of Muslim soldiers in a unit touches the threshold of 180, then that particular unit.
For a commanding officer, it is said that his religion is one of the soldiers.
Implying that the commanding officer has to participate in the ceremonies of the soldiers.
Even if that’s not his own religion.
This is how, in spite of a multi-religious, multicultural entity, there is always strong bonding among the men.
Irrespective of their individual faiths.
There had been difficult times in India, but its armed forces did not cave in to any provocations in the past.
Because of the traditions they maintain.
But now, the recent ominous call by some Sandhus from their conclaves from Haridwar in late December.
To be deliberately provoking the armed forces and police by inviting them to join marauding activists.
In this connection, two recent interviews by the prominent Indian news presenter and TV interviewer.
Karan Thapar is making rounds on Youtube, where he had an incisive exchange of opinion.
With Gregory Stanton, the founder, President, and Chairman of Genocide Watch.
Admiral Arun Prakash (Retd), the former Chief of Indian Navy.
And also Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff Committee.