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Red Flag Day: Soldiers raped a 14 year old. Where's the outrage?

Panini Anand | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 3:14 IST

The crime

  • A 14-year-old girl was allegedly raped by 3 soldiers on the Howrah-Amritsar Express on 27 December
  • The jawans reportedly forced the girl to consume liquor. One person has been arrested

The denial

  • Incidents of harassment by soldiers on trains are not uncommon. But they don\'t get reported
  • We have placed armed forces on a pedestal

More in the story

  • What exactly happened?
  • Have their been earlier instances?
  • Why do soldiers often get away?

They are our saviours, the last hope in the face of external threats, natural calamities, riots or terror attacks. Our soldiers are our shield against all dangers.

We entrust them with the responsibility of protecting the nation, so that rest of us can work in peace. They are an essential prerequisite for the progress of the country.

Also read - Army jawans allegedly gangrape pregnant woman in Assam

But imagine a situation in which the fence starts eating the crop. What happens when the protectors who evoke a sense of pride, discipline and conscientiousness in every citizen, turn into predators?

The incident

This happened on 27 December, when three army jawans raped a 14-year-old girl aboard the Howrah-Amritsar Express. The jawans reportedly forced the girl to consume liquor. The lust that flowed out from behind the olive coloured uniform trampled upon the dignity of the victim for hours.

She was on her way to meet a friend in Punjab. Her only fault was that she boarded the compartment reserved for army personnel.

The girl was thrown off the train in the middle of the night at Madhupur in Jharkhand. She was unconscious at that time. The atrocity came to light when the victim narrated her sufferings to the railway police. One of the culprits has been nabbed. Search operations are on to nab the others.

On 27 December, 3 army jawans raped a 14-year-old girl aboard the Howrah-Amritsar Express

The sordid saga is reminiscent of the rape and murder of Manorama in Manipur. The sheer brutality perpetrated by the army men in this case still gives one goosebumps. However, the army as well as the civil administration remained indifferent to Manorama's plight.

Women had to come out naked on the streets in protest to stir their conscience. The banners raised by them read 'Indian army rape us'.

Yet we hear of incidents of rape by army men in different parts of country. The rape on the Howrah-Amritsar Express is only the latest such incident.

India is a country that has revered her warriors since time immemorial. Our culture has held their sacrifices in utmost esteem. The stories of their valour are still cherished in our collective conscience. We have literally worshiped our bravehearts.

Incidents of soldiers misbehaving with civilians in trains are not uncommon. Most cases go unreported

But that does not mean we look the other way at this ugly face of some of our soldiers? Is it not shameful that those who should have guarded the honour of that girl turned out to be vulturous to her? That night, not one but three beasts tarnished the respect associated with the uniform they were wearing.

Are we lenient on errant soldiers?

Incidents of soldiers misbehaving with civilians in trains are not uncommon. And most of the time cases don't get registered as civilian commuters are too afraid take on armymen.

For instance in 2012, a few drunk soldiers allegedly tried to outrage the modesty of a group of female research scholars on the Kerala Express. The girls, who were from Kerala, eventually refused to file a complaint. The reason they was that the RPF told them that they would have to come to Andhra Pradesh repeatedly to pursue the complaint as the incident had taken place in that state.

We have overlooked the rot in the army for long. Most cases of misconduct within the defense forces remain behind the iron curtain of discipline and a separate code of law. Even then, news of discrimination against women and exploitation of junior personnel keep surfacing every now and then. Defense forces are not immune from financial misconduct either. We have seen scams in the purchase of equipment, shoes and even coffins, often with the complicity of senior army officers.

We revere our men in uniform. But does that mean we should ignore the misdeeds of some soldiers?

Just wearing a uniform and holding a gun cannot be a reason of pride. A chest adorned with medals is not the sole criteria of glory. A teacher, peon, labourer or farmer contributes no less to the motherland. Their sacrifices deserve equal accolades.

Yet, it is increasingly hard to raise fingers at men-in-uniform in this era of jingoism. We love to tear apart politicians, public servants, even film stars and sportspersons at the drop of the hat. But we are not willing to utter a word against the misdeeds of our defense forces.

But the trauma of the 14-year-old girl begs that we break our silence.

The views expressed here are personal and do not reflect those of the organisation.

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First published: 31 December 2015, 2:20 IST
Panini Anand @paninianand

Senior Assistant Editor at Catch, Panini is a poet, singer, cook, painter, commentator, traveller and photographer who has worked as reporter, producer and editor for organizations including BBC, Outlook and Rajya Sabha TV. An IIMC-New Delhi alumni who comes from Rae Bareli of UP, Panini is fond of the Ghats of Varanasi, Hindustani classical music, Awadhi biryani, Bob Marley and Pink Floyd, political talks and heritage walks. He has closely observed the mainstream national political parties, the Hindi belt politics along with many mass movements and campaigns in last two decades. He has experimented with many mass mediums: theatre, street plays and slum-based tabloids, wallpapers to online, TV, radio, photography and print.