Lieutenant General (Retd) Baljit Singh.
Ever since the eruption of mindless violence in Haryana recently, the thought uppermost in my mind has been the one stipulation from Article 51 A of the Constitution of India, namely that “It shall be the Fundamental Duty of every Citizen to safeguard public property and to abjure violence”. I believe that cutting across the “class” divides of our society almost every Indian would spiritedly articulate upon “Hamaara Huqq”, that is, his Fundamental Rights but perhaps not more than ten in a hundred citizens would be even aware that our Constitution has also concisely and explicitly enshrined the Fundamental Duties expected of each Indian citizen. Admittedly, the Article was an afterthought (incorporated in 1976) but the idea was unexceptionable, that every citizen has manifold obligations towards the society at large and the Country in particular to be worthy of the comprehensive Fundamental Rights conferred on him. Had the awareness of the Fundamental Duties been broadcast adequately in the manner of an article of faith, maybe we would have been spared the ugly sorrow that engulfed Haryana.
Inherent in the promulgation and construct of this Article was the hope of inculcating a sense of patriotism among citizenry through a dignified idiom (as distinct from flag waving and sloganeering jingoism) which would inspire a spirit of social responsibility both towards all fellow Indians and the State. Equally, it attempts to suggest a code of conduct intended to “strengthen the Nation, promote ideals of harmony, unity, common brotherhood, religious tolerance ......... It highlights the importance of citizens in the functioning of the State and urges upon them to do their utmost to discharge their duties”.
No matter how determined the lawless elements were upon arson and worse but if they were challenged by the combined numbers of citizens of Haryana, the mayhem may well have been staunched substantially if not altogether. The retired Army soldier, Naik Hawa Singh Yadav’s conduct in successfully warding off repeated attempts by a mob to plunder the ATM and vaults of the Bank, single handed is a point in case that a determined stand by citizens, in the spirit of the above cited constitutional obligation, is a more potent and desirable weapon than other alternatives available to the State. No matter that Hawa Singh was born and bred in Haryana’s current societal milieu but his reaction towards lawlessness was nobler than most of his kinsmen because in his younger, impressionable years the initiation training of a soldier had motivated him to be a responsible citizen. The officers who had mentored him had learnt at the Indian Military Academy, from the Manual of Indian Military Law that in defending public property one may use fire arms if need be without the fear of inviting any criminal charge.
And so he used the shot gun provided to him with positive effect. I wish one could say the same about the armed constabulary of the State.
It is not my case to suggest that we introduce compulsory military training for our youth but to revisit the philosophy and content of education imparted at our institutions of learning so that we may imbibe among all students, the essence of Hawa Singh like paradigm to duty; that is, my country and the well being of my countrymen, no matter what. Or, that our education systems must sow a conviction among their young wards of the kind that Harper Lee’s protagonist in her classic To Kill a Mockingbird had imparted to his children that courage in adversity is not necessarily to be armed with a weapon but true courage is “....when you are licked before you begin, but you begin anyway, and you see it through, no matter what”.
Reverting to the Fundamental Duties of Every Citizen (FDC), they are ten in number like the Biblical Ten Commandments. Sadly, unlike the Ten Commandments which find expression often in Church services, the FDC are almost never aired in any public or private discourses in India. Some years ago, during an informal meal with a UT Chandigarh Administrator (cum the Punjab Governor) my conversation drifted to Article 51 A and I was pleasantly surprised to be informed the next day that the FDC will be permanently displayed on a suitable bill board in each Government School, in UT Chandigarh. Perhaps two months later, I had a call from The UT Administrator enquiring as to how far was I from a Government Model Senior Secondary School? And in the next breath I was told to go and see the bill board and “let me know if it is impressive and a prominent display”! The irony however is, that the instructions to read out FDC to the School collectively on suitable occasions each year remain, I believe ignored.
Be that as it may, let me conclude by stating that we need never have been visited by the shame of rapes during the Jat agitation or at any other time past or in the future, had we by personal example at all levels of Indian polity, inspired our countrymen to be true to the spirit of Article 51 A (e), that is:
“to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women”.