By Lt Col Manoj K Channan (Retd)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is something which is known and often not discussed as it's 'shame and scandal' in the family. PTSD has been brought to the centre of focus by Hollywood and the Western Electronic media.
If we were to peep back into history; the population on the Western plains of Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat was subjected to attacks, loot and plunder by the Mughals and others. This was further exploited by the British East India Company; which set up its trade centres and consolidated its grip on India by the subjugation of the local kingdoms/population.
In the Indian context, the trauma of the Partition of India in August 1947 into West Pakistan, India and East Pakistan led to one of the largest genocides post the Second World War. While the Indian population was settling down, in 1948, Pakistan launched a covert operation to capture the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The civil population was the target of the Jihadis / Pakistan Army.
1962 Indo – China conflict saw the Indian Army fighting the last man the last bullet stands, with very few survivors. The sixties and seventies saw religious and communal riots, at the behest of the political parties. Most of North East was up in arms against the Indian State. The early eighties witnessed the brutal killing of the Sikhs and the Bhopal Gas Tragedy.
Kargil war brought the conflict to the living rooms of the nation. This was followed by the riots in Gujarat in 2002 and the suicide attacks in J&K continued to up the ante. The Mumbai Terror attack 26/11once again brought the "terror" to the living rooms in India.
This does not account for natural/manmade disasters or other such events; for which studies have been done.
In a brief one-liner "The people of India and its Security Forces have been subjected to severe trauma" yet the subject is not debated nor has been taken up seriously by the medical authorities to analyse and understand the impact.
The Indian Defence Services, Central Armed Police Forces, as well as the State Police, have not dwelled on the subject as they continue to be engaged in a "No War No Peace" environment throughout the year. The population in strive driven areas of J&K, red corridor and North East are subjected to this trauma daily, without respite.
In the Indian context some aspects that could be offsetting the trauma are mentioned below:
Chetwode Motto — "The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time. The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next. Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time." This needs no further explanation.
Training and Battle Inoculation — All ranks are put through collective training regularly and carry out live firing practices for battle inoculation. Units inducting into Counter Insurgency grid, are put through induction training at Corps Battle Schools. On reaching their areas of operations they do joint operations with the unit / sub-unit being relieved thus building up their confidence to deal with the life situations on the ground.
Junior Level Leadership — The bedrock of military leadership is its junior leaders and officers. Junior Commissioned Officers (JCO) and Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO) have always led from the front with the resolute will and determination to overcome the most difficult and dangerous opposition. Kargil War saw many such sacrifices.
Service Support System — The defence services have an integral system to reach out to the families of those killed in action, injured and those who get boarded out on medical grounds. The Wives Welfare Associations of the respective services have done yeoman service in easing the pain of those affected. The Flag Officers too visit the Veterans to address issues. The Army Headquarters has set up a Veterans Directorate with hotlines to insure a quick remedy to the needy.
Joint Family System-This system in our culture and the continued connect within the nuclear families give immense support. In addition unit/course/arm wise associations exist to care for the veterans and their families not to forget those serving too.
Jai-Jawan — The jawan is the epitome of supreme sacrifice, the rural spirit of the jawan is alive in the village and town chowks where life-size statues are installed to honour all those who have made the supreme sacrifice.
While a system exists to take care of those who have been through trauma; there is a need to address this in a more scientific manner and help those who are affected; especially in the Indian Defence Services.
Religious Factors-Last but not least, the soldier be it from the Army, Air Force or Navy has strong religious believes depending on his choice of faith. The religious teachers on various occasions narrate mythology and quotes from history to motivate the troops to uphold the law of the law land is the foremost duty.
"Just like there’s always time for pain, there’s always time for healing." "PTSD is a whole-body tragedy, an integral human event of enormous proportions with massive repercussions."
(The author is a veteran of the Indian Army. Views expressed are personal.)