My heart goes out to the family of the 13-year-old Dilson who was shot and killed by K. Ramaraj, a retired Lieutenant Colonel, in the army officers' enclave, Chennai, for sneaking in to pluck fruits. The attitude of army personnel towards civilians leaves much to be desired. In Allahabad, I have seen army personnel park their vehicles right in the middle of the road. Anyone who objects is beaten up by them. In the Secunderabad cantonment area, I once saw an army sentry beat up the driver of a city bus because he stopped the bus in front of the cantonment gate by mistake.
It seems army personnel, who are cut off from the civilian population throughout their career and live with the word “enemy,” regard our own civilians also as their enemies. This is not to say anything against the commendable job they do during floods and other calamities. But then they are given “orders.”
A retired Lieutenant Colonel transforming into a murderer is shocking. The officer's reaction to the 13-year-old's prank was downright gruesome. That he came to his balcony and reportedly took aim at the boy with his rifle shows that his action was not spontaneous.
His reaction to the act of a young boy who sneaked into his compound to pluck fruits shows how dangerously callous he is. He could have instead trimmed down the branches of the tree.
Dilson's killing reflects the intolerant attitude of army men towards civilians in general. As one who has retired from the Railways, I have personally witnessed their highhandedness. Unauthorised entry into reserved coaches, occupation of reserved compartments denying entry to fare-paying passengers, resisting the ticket checking staff in order to save their men travelling with expired and un-exchanged military warrants are their wont. On one occasion, just to teach a lesson to a police constable over a row on queue formation, a battalion ransacked an entire railway station.
Lt Col Ramaraj was on active duty till three months ago. He was very much a soldier who was required to adopt high standards of behaviour. Sure, urchins who steal fruits are a nuisance but to shoot at a 13-year-old with a high-powered rifle is a poor reflection on his training, discipline and “attitude.” It is not easy to perceive the Dilson incident in isolation. Only a few weeks ago, some army personnel forced their way into a hotel in Leh, intimidating tourists.
Training in the army should include lessons in humane behaviour and inculcate a service mentality, rather than concentrate only on building a fighting force that protects the boundaries. The human aspect should be given as much importance as discipline and uniform. There should also be mechanisms to deal with the frustration of army personnel, which makes them ferocious.
One fails to understand why the officer flew into such a rage. Picking fruits or nuts even in a prohibited area like the defence enclave cannot be an adequate reason for opening fire against someone. The boys should have been warned or reported to the local police. As a responsible army officer, Lt. Col. Ramaraj should have known that the gun is meant for self-defence and cannot be used against innocent civilians.
A. Michael Dhanaraj,
Haven't all of us scaled our neighbours' walls and plucked fruits or flowers at least once in our childhood? We hope justice will be done in Dilson's case and pray for the family of the unfortunate boy.
Lt Col Ramaraj is not a serving army man. The army authorities did not know that he was in the possession of a rifle. No army guard or weapon was involved in the shooting. The only predicament is that the crime took place in a defence residential enclave.
One must remember that equally gruesome incidents take place among civilians as well. The Indian army is the most disciplined institution.