It was 1971. The Indo-Pak war was very much on. It was the talk of the town and the nation. The battle lasted for 13 days. I was doing my VII the standard in Shri Kumara Gurubarar Swamigal High School in Srivaikundam, a Divya Desam( in the parlance of Vaishnavites) in Tamil Nadu. The school sheltered some 1500 children and 60 teachers. The students planned to do something substantial against the anarchy of a/ the hostile neighbour, which had forced innocents as refugees into India.
We gathered under the leadership of our School Pupil Leader Kanga Sabapathy, who later became an unusual politician turned advocate and took a decision to take out a procession in protest. When the Morning School Assembly was over, we came out of the school as decided and took out a procession through the lanes and by-lanes of the town shouting full throat-ted slogans, which includes among other things Barath Matha Ki Jai! Down with Pakistan! Down with Yahya Khan! Long live Indira amma and Muzibur Rahman Zindabad!' which reverberated all through the town through and through. The sloganeering touched its peak whenever the procession passed anywhere near any Educational Institution and the heads of schools instantly declared the day as a holiday, adding to the strength of the procession all the more. Men in uniform with lathis, who used to come out of the Police Station only for a cup of coffee or a puff of smoke, accompanied us all the way, in the guise of protection enjoying our enthusiasm and zeal for the Motherland.
As the procession reached the banks of the Tamira Barani River which courses through the Srivaikuntam, the crowd became unmanageable. Every boy was at the top of his voice and jumped into the air as though possessed by a spirit, the National Spirit. The onlookers observed that these chivalrous boys would set the whole of Rawalpindi on fire, given a chance.
Student leaders addressed the rally on the banks of the river. Everybody condemned Pakistan in the worst ever possible terms whenever the leader uttered the name, General Manekshaw, the Army chief, who led the Artillery, the crowd raptured into a tumultuous joy and cried from the rooftop, Maneksha ji zindabad!
When our NCC leader observed that, nearly a lakh of Pakistani soldiers have surrendered, the Rawalpindi may fall by night and that the birth of Bangladesh, the brainchild of Indiraji is a cent per cent certainty, we danced in utter joy. The whole atmosphere was suffused with a rare national flavour.
To top it all the effigy of Yahya khan was burnt amidst cheers. My friends Kailasam and Vinayagam for their part pulled out a Pakistani flag from nowhere and burnt it to ashes in no time, all well before the arrival of police with lathi on the spot.
Now I contrast this fiery patriotism on the part of students in the 1971 war with the now Nonmilitary pre-emptive surgical strikes against Pulwama carnage in JK in 1919 by Pak inspired ultras. Where does the patriotic fervour of our students go? Is it due to the allurement of social media like Facebook Twitter and What's up where mostly unwholesome abrasive ideas are dished out and shared or are it due to our failure to include such Historical events as part of school syllabus or due to predominance of regional parties for a pretty long time now? Is no doubt a matter for deep contemplation?