He took the election campaigning and attempts of polarising the electorate to bizarre level by claiming that more Muslims soldiers of Indian Army died in Kargil War than Hindu soldiers.
For the likes of Azam Khan who have become embodiment of all the malaises of muscle power, lack of governances and accountability, hooliganism and disregard for institutions that plague India's political culture, they always need an issue to make people vote on communal lines.
With near zero development, a dysfunctional government with abysmal record and total failure of administration to maintain law & order in Uttar Pradesh, Azam Khan needed an issue beyond the mundane to create controversy and portray himself as the torchbearer of a community. And for this, it was time to malign the Indian Army too.
Should Azam Khan be allowed to just speak utter rubbish, malign the Army?
The moot question then that arises is whether Azam Khan should be allowed to just speak utter rubbish, malign the Army and get away with it. The Indian Armed Forces, including the Indian Air Force, Indian Navy and Indian Army, remain some of the finest and among the few remaining institutions of the nation which continue to be class apart.
There is no doubt that the Indian Armed Forces continue to show exemplary virtues of not just bravery, selfless service and patriotism but also the highest ideals of secularism and equality. When a soldier dawns the uniform and carry the insignia of the force, he then has only one identity, of that of a protector of the nation. He then is neither a Hindu, nor a Muslim, nor a Christian and neither a Sikh. He is then is an Indian who collectively embodies all that defines India. And for him, his every fellow soldier is his brother in uniform and his only religion is his service to the nation.
The ethos of Indian Armed Forces have for generations created the highest form of equality of opportunity for all, purely based on merit and leadership capability irrespective of caste, creed or religion. When a man in uniform be it from the army, or air force or navy, puts his own life at the gravest of risks, he does so not for a religion or a caste but for the idea of India and the principles as well as the value systems that Indian Armed Forces have inculcated in him. To classify him on the basis of religion would perhaps be the worst kind of disrespect that can be shown to a martyred soldier.
In fact, one of the finest moments of Indian Army was during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War during which the Indian Army was led by probably the best soldier India ever produced, ie. Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw. He was ably assisted in leading the war by his two deputies namely Major General Jack Frederick Ralph Jacob and Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Aurora.
These men are revered till date as some of the most legendary soldiers, patriotic souls and sons of soil ever born in India. For the Indian Army, they still look up to these men and every man in uniform aspires to be an able leader like Sam Manekshaw or JFR Jacob or Jagjit Singh Aurora. But give an option to the likes of Azam Khans of Indian politics, they would decipher out that Mankshaw is a Parsi, JFR Jacob is a Jew and Jagjit Singh Aurora is a Sikh. That is the tragedy of petty identity politics of opportunistic vote seekers of Indian polity.
It was the Indian Army which had sent its men to Muzaffarnagar to quell the riots and save lives when Azam Khans of UP Government had left people to rot and die. The Army went in to save lives without looking at religions of people and neither had it mattered what the religions of the Army personnel were. They were all sworn into one religion, of that of the ethos of Indian Army and its relentless resolve to serve the nation.
What Azam Khan said or attempted to do was not the first attempt at waging differences or creating communal divisions in the Indian Army. In 2006, a similar dangerous attempt was made by the UPA Government through Sachar Committee to do a religion based census in the Indian Army which was nothing less than one of the most dangerous propositions ever propagated for vote bank politics. The Army vehemently resisted it and rightly so.
Neither Rajinder Sachar nor perhaps Azam Khan knows that in the Indian Army, every religious occasion is equally celebrated by every jawan, irrespective of their own personal religion and that every army cantonment or garrison would always have shrines of all major religions of India adjacent to each other and all religions have equal status and respect. It is not uncommon to see in the Indian Army, a Muslim Commanding Officer paying respect on the occasion of Janmasthami or a Hindu Commanding Officers and jawans similarly celebrating Eid and both equally celebrating Diwali and Holi.
Till date, the Indian Army continues to be one of the few remaining institutions of India which have consistently remained apolitical and have kept political interference into its activities to the minimal. The political and the bureaucratic class of India abhor the Indian Army for its ability to remain autonomous and for being respected so much by the common man even when that very common man has the worst kind of adjectives always in store for that very political and bureaucratic class.
The Indian Police have already been completely reduced to a subservient sentry of the political class and the net result is the sheer deterioration of law & order maintenance in India. Thanks to Indian Army and its complete refusal to become a tool in the hand of the political class that India's borders still remain safe from external enemies.
The Indian Army's ethos are perhaps one that ideally should be emulated by all, where individual religion never comes in the wake of respecting and embracing other people's faith as well and it all converge into a nationalistic feeling which cannot be compared to anything else in India.
It is the ultimate secular organisation of the nation which always created some of the finest leaders. Such great soldiers have come from all religions, be it Hinduism, Christianity, Sikhism, Islam or a Jew or a Parsi. It is perhaps the most equal opportunity organisation this country has ever created. From the likes of Field Marshal Sam Maneckshaw to Lt Gen JFR Jacob, from the likes of Lt Gen Syed Atta Hasnain to Lt Gen Zamiruddin Shah, from Gen VK Singh to Former Chief of Air Staff NAK Brown, from Maj Gen GD Bakshi to Gen VP Malik.
Azam Khan should have asked soldiers of India if they would prefer to be identified by their religion in the Army or by their brotherhood and sense of duty towards the nation. Azam Khan would have got the most vitriolic reply and rebuttal of his lifetime. Religious or caste differences have no place in Indian Army. And Azam Khans of Indian politics perhaps would never understand why.
While Azam Khan's statement represent the sad state of Indian politics today, the Indian Army truly represents what is still the best of virtues of India today. Thus, to expect the likes of Azam Khans to understand the ethos of Indian Army is like expecting an infant to understand and appreciate the symphonies of Beethoven.
The tragedy is that Indian political class would continue with their discriminatory and sectarian politics. Especially those who deploy district police to search for lost buffaloes would never understand what Indian Army stands for. But at least they would do better by not displaying their sheer ignorance about Indian Armed Forces or by making irresponsible and atrocious comments on them.