An idea that mattered to him … a tad too much!
तुरंत प्रसन्न होनेवाला।
What is the idea of India? It is a question that has baffled me all my adolescent years and still does till date. More so, after moving out of India and trying to marry it with my identity, I wish there were an easy answer. Many have dabbled and deliberated on the subject. Sunil Khilnani wrote an entire book on the subject. For Ramachandra Guha it starts with Gandhi and ends with Nehru. Congress thinks it is the sole custodian of this idea. BJP thinks it has a better idea. Hindu chauvinists think the idea predates Islamic invaders. Islamists snub it as it is not paramount. For many of India’s citizens it is a great idea and they would happily believe that it may in fact be the best in comity of nations. For a considerable portion of middle-class Indians, India is a good idea, but Canada, US, UK, and Australia are better ideas. There are citizens who don’t give a damn. There are many who join civil services, judiciary, and ancillary bodies to nurture and protect the idea. Then there are others like the “extreme” left-wing students of JNU, who despise this idea and would love to see it wither away. Ironically, there are others who graduate from the same university and are willing to risk their lives for upholding this idea. Capt. Ashutosh Kumar was one of them.
So, what is the idea of India? Well, Ashutosh Kumar is the idea of India. Born in a village in Madhepura district, the Hindi hinterland of Bihar. Studied in the neighbouring Odia speaking state in one of the many Sainik Schools spread across the nation. Went to military college in the Marathi speaking state of Maharashtra. Gave up his life in the line of duty in the union territory of Jammu & Kashmir. Ashutosh Kumar, whom his peers and juniors from the school speak highly of: A gentleman and a scholar who scored 92% percent in CBSE Science stream in class XII. No mean achievement amidst the rigours of Sainik schooling. With such academic pedigree he had many career choices to pick from, but in line of the motto of the school in which he rose to be a Captain, the choice was obvious: join NDA in the first attempt. Whose sudden demise at a young age, shocked and came as a personal loss to many including his seniors like me. The senior he never met in his lifetime is writing this at 11:45 PM on a weeknight roughly 8,000 km away from the place he attained martyrdom. The idea we are talking about is snared by the feeling of common allegiance and brotherhood. It may sound surreal and let’s not attempt to be rational. Some things are above this.
Soldiers in a democracy like ours are groomed to be apolitical professionals. Ashutosh was one of them. He did exactly what the nation-state expected of him. He swore allegiance to the republic and not to any political party. Wielded a gun to defend the land from insurgents and terrorists the GOI said belongs rightfully and morally to India. The physical manifestation of that idea — nation-state. Defining a nation in the era of globalisation may sound irrelevant, but I am still tempted to quote the 19th century French historian/philosopher Renan.
“A nation.. is a large-scale solidarity, constituted by the feeling of sacrifices that one has made in the past and of those that one is prepared to make in the future”
By sacrificing himself, Ashutosh has added himself to the future history of nation-state that will be told and retold in the future.
I have deliberately avoided “pride/proud”. I won’t say I am proud of his martyrdom. I am tired of feeling proud of such martyrdom. They are saddening. I mean no disrespect to his valour and sacrifice. India has seen enough loss of lives in the troubled land of Kashmir. Young charismatic people like 24 years old Ashutosh don’t deserve to die like this. Especially, when the country is technically not in the middle of war like situation. Yes, at this very moment some young lad in a village in Bihar and many other states are harbouring the dream to join the forces and uphold the idea of India, but it is time we don’t stretch this idea too much. Hope in my life time, the issue of J&K will be resolved for once and all.
See you in heaven Ashutosh (only if I manage to gather enough credits before my death). When we will meet, lets raise a toast to our alma mater and freedom. ** If you think the idea of heaven is lame, may be, but I see no problem in it if no one commits homicide for it. I want to go to heaven to meet people like Ashutosh, Satyendra Dubey, and Kalam. Not the ones who have carnal aspirations despite leaving physical bodies behind. **
I am told he is one amongst many martyrs from SSB in the line of duty (edited). May he also be the last.
PS: Ashutosh had plans to visit his village in December to attend his sister’s marriage. Though, the loss of a brother or son is irreplaceable void, hope the SSBians in Bihar make a genuine attempt to fill it.