Debate: Retired Servicemen Must Not Be Expected To Deny Realities

This is a rejoinder by a veteran to Rahul Bedi’s recent piece on The Wire,Government Has clamped Omerta of retired Servicemen’. 

The better part of the article is about what is happening. I have nothing to say about that. But the last paragraph is a direct indictment. Rahul says “To quote Martin Luther King Jr, in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends ― in this instance, the service veterans.”

As if the veterans are guilty of cowardice, or maybe, lack of patriotism.

In his charge, the phrase “the silence of our friends” is better suited for civil society which expects a lot from a serving soldier, and even more once he is retired. And all that, without lifting a finger to stand with him when he is being mauled by the system.

As is clear from the article, the notification of May 2021 has made it possible to at least threaten the issuance of a pension to a veteran if he gets too cheeky. Which part of civil society protested against this notification? Intellectuals, politicians, bureaucrats or nationalists? None that I remember. 

As long as the notifications stand tall, is a veteran expected to defy it, risking the bread and butter of his family? All for whom? For those who did nothing to prevent him from being so vulnerable? That expectation seems unfair.

It is true that several organisations and well-known personalities speak up against injustice, risking the ire of the government. But, they belong to that part of the society which has immense money and organisational power. They do not really risk much.

As long as powerful people and organisations do not stand up against rules and systems that have the power to disintegrate the lives of other citizens, they have no right to expect others to be as brave as them. 

Anyone deeply vulnerable himself must not be expected to fight the system. Those who exhort them to do so must first remove the vulnerability.

If they still do not measure up, they are indeed guilty.

Col Alok Asthana is a veteran. He can be contacted at

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