Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Last Salute

- Sadaat Hasan Manto

Subedar Rab Nawaz’s confusion is a result of the war that he is fighting against his own friends. Until yesterday he belonged to 6/9 Jat regiment and was an Indian soldier. Now suddenly he is a Pakistani soldier and people, such as Ram Singh, who was born in his village, studied in his school and whose father too was his father’s childhood friend, is an Indian soldier. He couldn’t understand that just some time back they were united in the Second World War. But now he didn’t know why he was warring against friends. The motto of war in 1947 baffled him. He needed some reason to fight it and so did Ram Singh, but both were confused- who was this war against and who was it for? Since they knew soldiers on both sides.

Though Rab Nawaz’s confusion arises out of fighting against friends, I am sure every soldier does feel confused as to the motto. Why is he fighting? Why is he killing people he doesn’t even know?

How can one kill many? Just go on killing. There has to be a reason. A reason to justify the acts to one’s conscience, to keep one going, to make one kill. A reason, not just a reason – a CAUSE. It’s noble. My country, I fight for my nation’s pride and HONOUR. It’s a noble cause, very great, very vast. It’s bigger than all of us. However this cause is just so abstract that it creates an aura about itself. Every side feels that they are fighting for good against evil, let alone humanity. But how does good restore its HONOUR by killing. And are wars really fought to uphold GOOD, HONOUR?

Condider this poem:

The Next War

Out there, we've walked quite friendly up to Death;
Sat down an eaten with him, cool and bland, -
Pardoned his spilling mess-tins in our hand.
We've sniffed the green thick odour of his breath,
-Our eyes wept, but our courage didn't writhe.
He's spat at us with bullets and he's coughed
Shrapnel. We chorused when he sang aloft;
We whistled while he shaved us with his scythe.
Oh, Death was never enemy of ours!
We laughed at him, we leagued with him, old chum.
No soldier's paid to kick against his powers.
We laughed, knowing that better men would come,
And greater wars; when each proud fighter brags
He wars on Death - for lives; not men - for flags.

Wilfred Owen

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