According a report, published in an Indian newspaper ‘Deccan Herald’, about 425 Indian soldiers from the Army, Air Force and Navy committed suicide in the last four years, in yet another demonstration of an unfortunate trend that dogs the armed forces for years. The maximum number of suicide cases were reported from nearly 12 lakh strong Army where nine officers and 326 soldiers took their lives. This is followed by the IAF which reported suicide of five officers and 67 airmen since 2014. The Navy is the least affected service with two officers and 16 sailors committing suicides in the last four years. Of late, an Indian soldier has committed suicide in Ganderbal district of Indian Occupied Kashmir. The soldier, Krishan Pal Naruka, ended his life by shooting himself with his service rifle at Wussan camp. Suicide and killing fellow soldiers have become perilously frequent in the Indian Armed Forces. This is the result of amalgamation of different factors such as fatigue, unpredictability of threats, easy availability of firearms, extended tenures of stay, absence of recreational avenues, domestic worries, irregular mail, and an inflexible leave system. All these factors increase the level of frustration among the Indian troops deployed in the Indian Held Kashmir.
Statistical evidence of suicides and fragging in the Indian army points toward the growing levels of frustration among the jawans. Specialists have pointed out that there is a gross gap between Indian soldiers and officers with respect to treatment in service and the soldiers blame officers for discrimination and injustice. They opine that attitude of army officers is the main cause of increasing suicide incidents of soldiers in Indian army. Soldiers also commit suicide because of the mental torture by their senior officers. As many as about 700 military personnel committed suicide between 2009 and 2014; there were 69 cases of suicide in the Indian Army in 2015 besides an incident of fratricide.
In many cases, the incidents of suicide and colleague killing happened when Jawans wanted to go on leave and were denied that privilege or were just returning from leave. In the first case, the necessary relief after a stressful stint is missing. In the second case, the problems at home, which remain unattended due to long periods of absence, could be the cause. So, in such a stressful state of mind a normal rebuke, scolding or an embarrassment is enough to ignite them. The rapport between Officers and Junior Commissioned Officers is missing in Indian Armed Forces. Officers at senior level are more concerned with their own welfare rather then the welfare of Jawans. Similarly, Jawans in Indian Army also face economic pressures. They are deprived of adequate housing and decent salaries. They face poor promotional opportunities and meager pensions. Due to economic pressures, Armed Forces personnel seek premature discharge from the services, which the Indian Government is reluctant to provide. These army men when trapped in insurgency hit areas and finding no way out, suffers from mental stress, which eventually drained out anger and violence against fellows and others.
Similarly, the changes in Indian society such as the breakdown of the tradition of men staying with their parents even after marriage also contribute to the pressure. With modern nuclear families, the soldier is always beset by concerns about his family’s future. The hostile working conditions in insurgent infested areas are no less important. The jawans, trained to fight a visible enemy, have to fight an invisible enemy in insurgency ridden areas and are exposed to enemy by themselves. So this confusion increases mental stress and frustration that results into rash actions. Soldiers in counter insurgency operations of the North and North East carry loaded rifles with them all the time. The smallest arguments usually result in killings of own fellow soldiers.
The Indian Army despite awareness of its growing problem of suicides and colleague killing is not taking timely actions to adhere the issue. Although an eyewash increased number of psychiatrists in community hospitals has been introduced but it is not sufficient enough to take care of the large numbers of patients. The Indian Army recently began distributing field manuals on suicides and fratricides, for use by Officers and men in North and North East to inform soldiers about the stress symptoms and ways to prevent outbreaks of violence. Similarly, religious teachers, JCOs of Army Education Corps and regimental medical officers have also been identified as psychological health mentors at the unit level which shows that conditions of Indian soldiers are getting tense day by day. Besides, the government approval of two psychiatric centers at the Northern and Eastern Commands in addition to advisories on formal and informal interactions between senior and junior officers is indicative of the intensity of problem.