In rejecting a plea that they recuse themselves from hearing a case of alleged fake encounters involving the security forces in Manipur, Justices Madan B Lokur and UU Lalit of the Supreme Court have sent out a strong signal to the military and police communities, and their civil/political backers that the sinews of the uniformed community are much too strong for their morale to be impacted by adverse comments on their functioning.

Simultaneously have their Lordships reiterated that upholding human rights is integral to the forces’ commitment to duty and traditions, and that there can be no compromising on such basics. The populist contention that the “end justifies the means” has never been, and can never be, part of India’s proud military ethos.

The message must resonate through that section of the political leadership which erroneously believes that there is a “muscular” solution to the discord that has erupted into militant violence in the North-east, the Kashmir Valley, and the Maoist zone in central India.

Although the court made no specific mention of it, it virtually rejected the argument that countering insurgency was not possible without the presumed “protection” of the obnoxious Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), and hinted that only inept leadership resulted in the forces slamming all adversaries as the “enemy”.

In their own oblique fashion, their Lordships reminded the present crop of military and political leaders that as important as the decisive nature of the 1971 victory was the fact that few allegations of a rapacious Army were made when the Indian troops liberated Bangladesh.

It was that standard set by Sam Manekshaw and his commanders that Bipin Rawat and Co. were expected to emulate. The petition from some 600 soldiers questioning earlier observations of the court (which received tacit approval from the political leadership) was thus projected in questionable light.

The court held it to be a “rather over-broad submission” that its comments of July 30 have demoralised the forces. “In any event, in our opinion, it should be clear to everyone that officers and personnel of the Indian Army, paramilitary forces and state police forces are made of much sterner stuff than is sought to be projected and they can hardly be demoralised by observations made by anybody…. It is unfortunate that a bogey of demoralisation of the Indian Army (etc) is being raised… for some unfathomable reason… and is suggestive of a weakness in them”…. and “this is really stretching the argument to the vanishing point”.

These were no hollow left-handed compliments their Lordships were extending to the military/police/political leadership, merely an exhortation to today’s “generals,” ministers, etc to have the moral courage to reject taking the easy way out, and to look far beyond the gun as the solution to what has caused varied sections of society to revolt against a system they deem oppressive.