Amb Kanwal Sibal

At those heights where the earth touches the sky
The wind blows like a flurry of sharp spears
That pierce the flesh without drawing blood
When breathing becomes an ordeal
And each step an act of determination to feel alive

Our soldiers stand like sentinels with weather proof will
In bleak landscapes where nothing grows
Stark cliffs that rise from the ground like denuded giants
Where icy streams eddy through rocks and boulders
The soldiers pump the depleted oxygen with strong hearts
They stand guard with an attachment to a barren soil
That is fertile with the greenery of sentiment and emotion

They feel in their blood that this desolate vista is just another face
Of our land that stretches from northern peaks to southern oceans
From the snow clad peaks where nothing pulsates
To the teeming multitudes of the lush tropics
Ready to defend the vast frontiers of the land

They are not intimidated by the marauding enemy
Already gorged with slices of land it has swallowed
And yet looking for morsels it can ingest
Like creatures that gobble up stones to digest food

Enemy that brings men and armour and pitches tents
Mistaking that muscle flexing and threats
And an exaggerated belief in what its equipped strength
Will achieve against a rejuvenated force
That has long overcome the trauma of 1962
And is ready to flatten noses already flat

The so-called People’s Liberation Army that has trampled
On the freedoms of its own people and in lands it has occupied
Reducing the Tibetans to immolate themselves in despair
Their noble spiritual leader wedded to Buddha’s values
Abused in uncivilised terms and the Uighurs of Sinkiang
Incarcerated in re-education camps by those adept at pain-infliction
They came as Stone Age warriors, armed with clubs studded with nails
Wrapped in barbed wire, with knuckle dusters and stones
Under the funereal shadows of crags and ridges and bluffs
Plunging into the racing waters of the chilling Galwan River
They struck like savages those defending our land
The commanding officer hit on the head and skidding into the frozen water
His men not only from the land where the Mauryas ruled the country
Which produced the warrior guru of the Sikhs and fought the British
But from all over the vast and variegated sweep of our country
Hit back and butchered pampered sole sons who whimpered like babies

Forty five years of illusion was shattered that tenebrous night
That protocols of border management would prevent bloodshed
That the enemy would respect the sanctity of a solemn word
That its ogre appetite would be controlled and that its eyes
However expressionless were not that of a machine
That worked mechanically with repetitive ruthlessness
With no manual of ethics and code of honour
To make patterned moves to produce pre-conceived outcomes
As in the Paracels, the Spratly, Scaraborough, Senkaku and Natuna

The cynical, self-serving, amoral, unprincipled, unscrupulous men
That under the shadow of the Forbidden City
Unleash forbidden blows on all they see as obstacles
In the way of their hegemonic ambitions and drive for dominance.

The sacrifice of Colonel Babu and his men who bludgeoned to death
Or embraced by the cold clasp of racing waters into oblivion
Has taught the invader that against its cold-blooded claims
On territory that does not belong to the guts of his country
And is just an exercise of expansionist territorial urges
Are pitched men who believe this land belongs to the nation’s soul
For which they will sacrifice their lives time and again
The battle yet not being over with more offering of treasured lives ahead.

Contrasting with this sense of supreme sacrifice to protect the nation
Are petty politicians with pettifogging agendas in the fevered plains below
Nickle and dime analysts, civilian and military, sold to unknown interests
Determined to embarrass the government, insinuating that soldiers died
Not defending the country against the enemy but victims of governance
Asking why soldiers in darkness did not shoot not knowing friend or foe
Lamenting that territory was lost because of intelligence failure

Playing China’s game by propagating fear about its amassed troops
Satellite photo specialists playing war games in studios with sham expertise
Treating the government as enemy of the country not the foreign foe
With attention focused on political battles at home than the real battle
That our heroes are fighting on the frontier not for any political gain
Inscribing their names potentially on the tragic roll call of the dead
Serving the country selflessly to protect those who will faint if their fingers bled
Political warriors who play destructive blame games for the demise of our heroes
Not respecting them who die in mountains forlorn defending our glaciated gates.

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