Without a doubt, military forces across the world lead a hard life. The Indian jawan who guards the borders in extreme weather conditions, stays away from his family and loved ones for a good part of his life, and signs up to take a bullet on our behalf deserves our respect and gratitude.
While the army's name is invoked by the political establishment of the day, regardless of party lines, to fan nationalism among civilians, it is an institution that has often been at the receiving end of apathy by the powers that govern it. The longstanding struggle for One Rank, One Pension (OROP) is an example of this.
Of late, however, it's not only canny politicians who suddenly become patriots on the dais. Social media pumps many of us with a certain self-importance that encourages us to hold forth on subjects on which we have only half-baked knowledge. A lot of people, in fact, share articles without even reading them - a glance at a headline that appeals to their line of thinking is sufficient to pass off as "proof" for the side of the argument they are inclined to take.
Worse, they outrage by asking questions in the comments section which have already been addressed by the author in the piece, exposing the fact that they haven't bothered to read the article before getting angry about it.
And increasingly, when it comes to issues that are of national interest, the jawan is becoming the excuse for many of these social media "intellectuals" who close a debate with the line, "When jawans are dying, why can't you do your bit for the country?"
From the JNU controversy to demonetisation, this line is thrown at anyone who has an alternate point of view or who doesn't heap lavish praise on a certain political decision. You can't say anything about the AFSPA, for instance, without receiving virulent abuse that tells you about the temperature levels at Siachen. But if the army is so sacred, why wasn't there similar outrage when jawans were asked to build pontoon bridges for Sri Sri Ravishankar's controversial Art of Living gala - a private event - on the banks of the Yamuna? Should we be reminded that jawans are dying only if we take a view that's against the government's stance?
The recent demonetisation move has been praised and criticized by many. Whether you believe that this will ultimately put an end to the black money menace or not, news reports from various parts of the country show that ordinary people are facing a lot of hardship because of this exercise. It is disrespectful to their reality and that of the jawans to draw comparisons and make ludicrous statements like, "If jawans can stand for 10 hours at the border, can't you stand in the ATM queue for 1 hour?"
Acknowledging that other people are struggling with the government's latest move even if you may be completely all right with it doesn't make you any less a "patriot". It makes you a sensitive human being who is capable of empathy and god knows, we need more of those in the country.
The ordinary soldier in the Indian army signs up for the job for a wide number of reasons. Unemployment, poverty, and patriotism among them. The civilians we see on the roads today - angry, confused, and helpless - are not frustrated because they're anti-nationals. Many of them are underprivileged, do not have plastic money or even bank accounts. Their lives have been thrown into disarray by the suddenness of a political decision. Pitting them against soldiers is unfair to both.
Using the jawan to display your patriotism because you're too lazy to read and understand the complexity of an issue is a lot more disrespectful than someone disagreeing with a point of view using democratic means. After all, when jawans are standing at the border for 10 hours, can't you sit in your armchair and read something for five whole minutes?
Note: Views expressed are the personal opinions of the author.