New Delhi: Have our martyrs been forgotten, have our heroes been sacrificed? CNN-IBN's Talking Point takes a look at how well do we keep the memories of our beloved heroes alive long after the war is done. To discuss the issue was a panel of experts comprising of former chief of army staff, Retd Gen Shankar Roy Choudhary, BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan. Why is it that the UPA government in its last five years of being in power never commemorated the heroes of the Kargil war? It is only now after the Opposition has stepped up pressure that the UPA government has decided to commemorate the 10 years of Kargil victory.
Jayanthi Natarajan: I do not know what exactly is the question. The issue really is that Kargil is a very poignant memory, very poignant moment for so many of us fellow Indians and to the members of the families who lost their beloved in the Kargil war. So, to commemorate the 10 years since is an act that needs to be appreciated. Not having done this over the last five years, is something that is merely trying to politicise the incident. It's not just the government, it's also the people. Of course, it is the primary responsibility of the government but any citizen can do it, any party could do it.
CNN-IBN:Pl tell the name of one Central minister who has commemorated the Kargil war.
Rajiv Pratap Rudy: You know, I think you are just politicising it. There have been many wars and there have been many ...every time on the Amar Jawan memorial on important national day, the Prime Minister and the President go and lay the wreath. We are a grateful nation, every one of us. We do remember the sacrifices made. I think it is much more important to ensure that the members of their family get their proper dues that the government promises them after they have lost their husbands and sons.
CNN-IBN: But the President was asked to travel to Kargil and the President herself declined the offer. It does seem like your government is trying to minimise what really this moment means for the nation.
Jayanthi Natarajan: There is no way that this government will minimise the sacrifice and tragedy of those who died at Kargil. Yes, as a political party we will put the blame upon the BJP for the massive intelligence failure, for the loss of lives which was so needless and unnecessary, for the entire war which was so needless. But in no way will we forget the martyrdom of the people who died there.
CNN-IBN: Let me put that to Rajiv Pratap Rudy. Effectively, what Jayanthi Natarajan has said and what the Congress has perhaps maintained for the last five years is that there was nothing to celebrate about Kargil.
Rajiv Pratap Rudy: Yes, exactly. I was afraid that Jayanthi would come out with the facts and say that it was not the nation's victory and only a political victory of the BJP. I am amazed and shocked when senior spokesperson of the Congress party minister says something like that. The President too declines to go when a big function is being held in Darar, where the family members of the slain martyrs and generals are going...we do not have a single person representative of the government, going from Delhi. The Defence Minister decides to not go, not a single minister from the council of 80 ministers is going to Kargil. This is exactly my point. We never said that this was the BJP or the NDA's victory. We said it is the nation's victory. To demean this victory and to say that the sacrifice made by the soldiers and warriors was a waste and the cause was the BJP...
CNN-IBN: She has not said it was a waste, only blamed you for the intrusion.
Rajiv Pratap Rudy: Tomorrow, if we start questioning as to why Rajiv Gandhi sent the IPKF to Sri Lanka?
Jayanthi Natarajan: That is a complete distortion.
Rajiv Pratap Rudy: Or question the 1962 war. Does a soldier require to be dragged to those levels? I am scared..
CNN-IBN: Many would say that the UPA government is delayed but has agreed to commemorate the Kargil war after 10 years. Does that make soldiers like you happy, sad, indifferent?
S Roy Choudhary: I think it is a political debate that should be buried along with the political parties. It is irelevant. The soldiers do not think about what the politicians think about their acts. They have been serving their country bravely right since 1947. These nauseating, disgusting, shrill, vituperative political debates have no meaning for the Indian Defence Services. Rather, I think we should get beyond just remembering Kargil. We should start reviewing Kargil so that it does not happen again. What has happened in Mumbai on 26 November was in its own way an urban Kargil. Now that is what we should be looking into: Why did Kargil happen again despite all the studies? Despite all the reports made on Kargil, why did we have the same intelligence failure, and a similar type of major incident in Mumbai? Kargil and Mumbai are interlinked. Mumbai is an urban Kargil. So, instead of this shrill debate, for the government to sit down why this happened again and to ensure that it is not repeated is the best tribute to Kargil.
CNN-IBN: Jayanthi Natarajan, if I could increase that similie that Gen Roy Chaudhary is making: It wasn't just the intelligence failure, what we saw in Mumbai was lack of preparation and lack of proper equipment to the men in uniform. So many Kargil widows still talk about how their men went there really under prepared and under equipped and we saw the same thing happening in Mumbai. Your government has been in power for five years today and still we see the topic of bullet proof jackets coming up. Ancient 303s are being used. Really is this not the time while we are commemorating, to instead announce something on behalf of them.
Jayanthi Natarajan: First of all Rajiv Pratap Rudy very conveniently twisted and distorted what I had said. I wish to say three things. I did not say it was the victory of the BJP. It was the victory of the armed forces and the failure of the BJP government and the BJP intelligence that created an unnecessary situation where our brave men died. Second, General Roy Chaudhary said exactly what I said. And for him to stand there and say that it is nauseating is something that I take strong and serious objection to. It is not just the Defence Forces which are patriotic. All of us are patriotic. All of us feel in the same way. He does not feel any more patriotism than any of us do. I take serious objection to what he said. Number three, yes, 26/11 was a terrible mistake. There were deficiencies. The first thing that Mr Chidambaram said after he took over as Home Minister was that yes, there were deficiencies, there were mistakes. Deficiencies happened in the equipment. The NSG could not reach fast enough. They are setting up NSG centres across the country. That has happened within 100 days. We are taking steps to ensure that it does not happen again. No government should let it happen again. Let nobody assume a total monopoly on patriotism in this country.
CNN-IBN: Jayanthi, just to wrap it up, it is important that we commemorate our martyrs and commemorate all wars to respect all martyrs. Be it Kargil, be it any other war that has happened before that. And Kargil has not been commemorated for political reasons.
Jayanthi Natarajan: Pl do not reduce to symbolism. We respect every martyr who died in Kargil. We respect every martyr. I am saying this on behalf of my party. We bow our heads to all the martyrs who died in Kargil. Please do not reduce it to the symbolism of whether a minister went or not. We hope their families are looked after and we do not want General Roy Chaudhary who feels as though every party comes from the gutters.
S Roy Choudhary: I apologise to Ms Natarajan, she seems to have taken it to heart. I standby what I said though, that the virulent, shrill debates are nauseating to all of us who are not in politics. Well, I think you all said that all wars have to be remembered. Kargil has made a particular impression on the nation's psyche because of the tremendous media coverage it got from television. But then if you go back in history, to 1947-48, the battle of Zozilla was just as bad. The people did just as well. The Param Vir Chakra that the young officer Vikram Batra earned? What about Somnath Sharma at Badgam in 1947? He too earned a Param Vir Chakra. These are all equivalent heroism. We have to celebrate the heroism of our defence forces. The action, the day should be celebrated. I beg to submit of all concerned, which we are not doing properly. Vijay Divas is being celebrated only one day, to commemorate when we created Bangladesh.