PUNE: Barbaric age-old practices in the name of squadron traditions at National Defence Academy (NDA) are nothing but a glorified name for ragging, say retired military officials. While University Grants Commission has laid out strict measures to counter ragging and punish the offenders in educational campuses, the military training institutes seem to have ignored them on pretext of traditions.
The reasoning, that physically and psychologically harassing acts committed by seniors on juniors in such institutions makes them strong, is baseless and unjustifiable, say military counsellors. In many cases, it is the ragging that leads to medical injuries and subsequently discharge of the students from such institutes; while in extreme cases, they have led to suicides too.
The suicide case of fifth term NDA Cadet Alekh Jaiswal last year was just an example of the atmosphere of fear that has been built in NDA over the years because of unmonitored unofficial squadron traditions. Alekh Jaiswal was found hanging in his room on July 23, 2017.
Shivlal Jaiswal, father of the deceased cadet, is still waiting for NDA’s Court of Inquiry in connection to his son’s death for last ten months and is devastated by the response of NDA.
He said, “My son was humiliated by his seniors. They videotaped him while they were seizing his cell phone. When I visited NDA after the death of my son, I was shown CCTV footage of the corridor of Hunter Squadron in which three cadets were seen entering the room of my son. Two of them entered his room while the third one was taking his video. This videotaping by the seniors has caused humiliation to him and it seems because of this, he ended his life.”
Jaiswal informed that when he demanded to meet the cadets, who videotaped him, he was allowed to meet them in the presence of an officer by the name of Rajeev Ranjan Singh. He said, “When I questioned them what was the need for videotaping my son, they replied that they did it for evidence. I don’t know what evidence they wanted when they already had seized the mobile. The boys were just saying what they were told to say by the NDA authorities. Later, that officer (Rajeev Ranjan Singh) started saying that my son was a defaulter, which really enraged me.”
According to Jaiswal, NDA authorities also showed him some drawings of Alekh. He said, “They showed me a drawing in which ‘I love death’ was written. They told me that Alekh used to make such drawings. However, I was not sure that it was his handwriting. NDA authorities just want to close this matter. They handed over Alekh’s phone to police after nine days and tried to unlock the sim at a phone shop in Gol Market on their own. When I questioned them why they tried to open the sim, the authorities told me that they wanted to know his phone number.”
“Answers given by them are unreasonable. They are not interested in the matter. They have not even sent his belongings back to us.” added Jaiswal.
When contacted, NDA authorities said, “In this unfortunate death case, the jurisdiction of investigation is with the Civil Police station, viz. Uttamnagar police station. However, a Court of Inquiry was also ordered to administratively establish facts of the case. Since, the matter is under investigation, it would not be right to make any conclusions at this juncture.”
When contacted, Hemant Bhatt, PI, Uttam Nagar police station, said, “We are not aware of what has happened inside the room with him. It may be possible that he may have committed suicide because of some altercation with seniors related to seizing of his cell phone or because of fear of punishment but we cannot say anything. We have not been provided any CCTV footage or any other video from NDA. Our report is only based on circumstantial evidences and according to it, he has committed suicide, but if SDM orders any further investigation, we will re-investigate the matter.”
WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY
- Colonel (Retd) Vinay Dalvi, an Army veteran and former PTO at NDA, IMA and OTA, said, “I think it is high time to stop ragging, bullying and manhandling of cadets on the pretext of unofficial training and grooming of cadets. Better military leaders are made with structured and scientific training and not by just punishments.”
- Nixon Fernanado, former lecturer at NDA, said, “In military life, the idea is down the line, as a senior, people will be trusting with you with their lives in your hands. So the ideal is that cadets should be groomed so that they will able to trust each other with their lives. In NDA, a junior cadet is bossed by about 50 to 100 seniors and everyone in their capacity gives him punishment, which takes a toll on these boys, and there is nobody to monitor this.”
- A former counsellor of National Defence Academy, on condition of anonymity, said, “Instead of grooming cadets in a scientific way, barbaric squadron traditions and unending punishments are used in the name of making them strong. Unfortunately, these punishments force cadets to quit the academy and sometimes even to commit suicide.”