The strategy of citing the example of soldiers has its downsides, as right wing social media activists are discovering. When a jawaan from the armed forces actually reports the terrible conditions he faces, the narrative cannot be ignored.
In four videos uploaded to his Facebook account on Sunday and Monday, Tej Bahadur Yadav of the 29 battalion Seema Suraksha Bal listed out the poor treatment meted out to him and his colleagues, specifically singling out the quality of the food, alleging that the soldiers are at times forced to sleep on an “empty stomach”.
“This dal just has turmeric and salt, but no taste,” he says in one video, showing a watery lentil soup and under-cooked rotis. “We have been getting this same food for 10 days continuously. Can a BSF jawan do 10 hours of duty after eating such food?”
Yadav, who is posted along the India-Pakistan border in Jammu and Kashmir, makes the most serious allegation in the video above: “The Indian government provides everything,” he says. “The stores are full. But all that goes to the market. Where it goes and who sells them should be investigated.” At the same time, he says, making the video public will cause him problems with his superiors.
“Officials have a lot of power. They can do anything to me,” he said.
At the end of each video, he says, “Please share this video as widely as possible so the government sees our plight. Jai Hind.” This message seems to have resonated with a lot of viewers as each clip was seen over a million times and shared by thousands of Facebook accounts.
Eventually the clips made their way to Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who asked for a report from the Home Secretary.
The outcry has prompted the BSF to initiate an inquiry into the matter. In a statement, the BSF said it was “highly sensitive to the welfare of troops” and added that “individual aberrations, if any, are enquired into. A senior officer has already reached the location.”
Meanwhile, even before investigation of the serious allegations are carried, attempts have been made to malign Bahadur’s character
A BSF officer told The Indian Express that Yadav had faced disciplinary action for multiple reasons in the past and sources within the BSF have alleged that he has posted the videos because he is unhappy with his posting.
“BSF jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav is an habitual offender,” a BSF source told ABP News. “He joined the BSF in 1996 and has received severe punishments four times for different reasons. He was charged of misbehaving with a Commander too. Recently he was sent to LoC for duty from a ‘softer’ place and since then was enraged with his posting and had threatened his superiors of dire consequences.”
However, what the video shows is that citizens are increasingly resorting to social media to evoke responses from the authorities. While individually seeking out superiors and airing out grievances might not cause the situation to improve and even prove detrimental to career prospects, a social media storm means officials are forced to respond one way or another.
Whether it is in the form of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s response to a man on twitter seeking a transfer for his wife, or Rajnath Singh’s ordering an inquiry following Bahadur’s videos, social media seems to be the best method to get quick action from ministers.