Bara Khana Limerick

Cribbing is a part of everyday life in every organization – a healthy way for people to let off steam. It often prevents pent up emotions from being vented in a more dangerous or harmful manner. We have all grown up in service listening to humorous satirical ditties, songs and skits by Jawans at Bara Khanas. In one’s experience, these have been good natured attempts at pulling the legs of officers and JCOs. They are tongue in cheek efforts to put across a point, request or complaint that can’t probably be raised in more formal fora like the Sainik Sammelan. They are generally witty, very entertaining and full of earthy humour – and they rarely miss the point.

One expected something similar when a file titled Barakhana_Limerick landed as an email attachment amongst the deluge of such messages filling inboxes on a daily basis these days. But it was with a deep sense of horror that one heard the recorded words of the Jawan reciting his litany of woes. By no means was it even remotely good natured, satirical or tongue in cheek. It was a cold, chilling assessment of the state of affairs as probably viewed by the hapless soldiers in a lot of units. The reason why it was even more chilling was because it confirmed with the impressions and views that one has gathered even in conversation with officers. Views that get borne out by incidents of assault, affray and mass insubordination in units reported in the press with alarming frequency of late.

The poem comes across as a ‘no-confidence motion’ of the jawan towards his officers. It talks about the prevailing environment where personal ambition of officers has overtaken all other considerations in running the day to day affairs of a unit. Where the only thing that seems to matter is earning a ‘nine pointer’, even if it means ruthlessly exploiting the unit’s resources and driving its men to perform mundane tasks merely to please senior officers. It talks about the menace of ‘family welfare’ which provides the ladies an unwarranted excuse to assume an executive role in the functioning of the unit. Something that is so obviously resented by the jawans. It goes on to talk about the fact that maintenance of weapons and equipment is often neglected in deference to pursuits that are more ‘rewarding’ for the officers concerned in the short term. It talks of the state of the mind of the jawans, who witness this state of affairs, quite mindful of what the driving forces are, yet caught up by their helplessness.

One of the follow up messages received shortly thereafter suggested that the audio file had been prepared and circulated by a foreign intelligence agency in an attempt to lower morale of our soldiers and officers. One cannot completely discount such an eventuality, given that the unfortunate incidents in some units were widely reported in press, and would form a perfect backdrop for putting together such a scheme.

But, irrespective of its origin, the unfortunate fact is that the circumstances described have a disturbing ring of truth about them. These are things that have been discussed by agitated officers amongst themselves. The very same reasons often cited by them for the decline that seems to be gripping the internal health of the organization. It would be very convenient to dismiss this as either an isolated opinion of a disgruntled soldier, or the machinations of a malicious enemy. Yet it also provides an opportunity to introspect and confront unpleasant issues that are likely to have a long term adverse impact on the organization.

One therefore hopes that the voice on the file – whether of an enemy agent or a long suffering jawan – is heard carefully by the powers that be, right up to the highest levels. It is introspected upon, matched with reality on ground, and some proactive steps taken. Alternative is to continue living in an ostrich’s paradise and face the consequences.