mid-day editorial: Don't make soldiers fight for basic rights

Mar 04, 2017, 09:01 IST | mid-day correspondent

Did Armyman Roy Mathew pay the price for speaking the truth? Are we seeing a whistleblower victim? These questions will be met with a resounding yes

Did Armyman Roy Mathew pay the price for speaking the truth? Are we seeing a whistleblower victim? These questions will be met with a resounding yes.

Reports have come in about Army gunner Mathew - who had been part of a sting operation in February that criticised the ‘sahayak’ (orderly) system - being found dead under mysterious conditions on Thursday.

The body of this soldier from Kerala was recovered near his camp in Deolali Cantonment. Roy had previously complained of harassment by senior officers. Roy was among many jawans seen in a video that showed soldiers walking officers’ dogs and taking their children to school, reports stated.

His allegations made instant headlines. In fact, the video came at a time when soldiers from various other forces were uploading photos or videos citing ill treatment. What set the cat among the pigeons was a post by a BSF jawan complaining of sub-standard food.

Roy’s death, however, comes as a huge embarrassment to the Indian defence forces. Perhaps it reinforces the belief that honesty is not always rewarded and perhaps it’s better to keep silent in the face of injustice. This is not to say that his claims of harassment are true, but the case required thorough and unbiased inquiry. Men in uniform must allow give junior-level soldiers a free and fair avenue to put forth their grievances. The fact that these soldiers felt the need to vent on social media is an indicator of their lack of faith in a redressal mechanism, or simply the fact that there is none.

Should the entire system be revamped? Must certain parts of the sys­tem be abolished? Attempts must be made to lend a patient ear to our soldiers. If justice is served to Roy, it will reinstate the faith of the masses in our security forces too.

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