‘The moment that justice must be paid for by the victim of injustice it becomes itself injustice’, said Benjamin R Tucker.
No contemporary published work elucidates this quote more than the book, Maimed By The System, a book that needed, no demanded, to be written. This book encompasses the struggle and strife of military personnel, veterans, disabled soldiers and their families who fought the system to get was legally due to them anyway.
As such, the book in question, which is a revised edition, has been authored by Major Navdeep Singh, a practicing advocate at the Punjab and Haryana High Court and a Territorial Army officer.
The book is in two parts – the first comprises 22 accounts of the travails and tribulations of soldiers and their families who have had to fight protracted battles with a seemingly unsympathetic system, to claim their rights, post-disability. The second part compiles selected works of the author published on various platforms. This part also recounts the problems faced by the men in uniform at the hands of apathetic institutions, governments and policy makers.
The idea behind the book is to foreground the difficulties faced by soldiers and their kin, and to make contemporary society aware of the prevalent situation, in the hope that it will serve as a catalyst for galvanizing support to change the narrative. It must be said, that this book could not have come from a more befitting person, someone who has been a witness and stakeholder on both sides, having served as a soldier and now is a part of the legal system.
Though the preface mentions that these are also stories of hope and triumph, they sometimes leave the reader with a sense of despair. Consider the case of disabled soldier, Bachan Singh, who fought in Cairo in World War II. Released by the Army on grounds of disability, he had to fight for six decades to get his pension, and received it at the age of 98, only to pass away right after. In those decades of penury, he lived in a Gurudwara for sustenance. It seems that the system not only takes away the financial support that is due to our soldiers, but also strips them and their families of their right to a dignified existence. The adage ‘justice delayed is justice denied’, rings hard and true, one would think.
Now the book itself is a relatively easy read and is devoid of unnecessary military and legal jargon. The stories are succinct, to the point, including only relevant details. However, the stories could do with direct quotes from the soldiers and their families, to make the reader feel their pain even more acutely. Despite this, the book achieves what the author had set out to do. It is a well-researched book, clearly bringing forth the lackadaisical attitude of the system towards giving those who have served and lost, what they deserve. The book reveals how policies are misinterpreted and end up being held above the Constitution and the law. The author believes that ‘judgments repeatedly rendered by Courts are not applied to other affected parties based upon principles settled therein and equally and similarly placed individuals are forced to litigate on same issues again and again and again.’
However, as the author says, the aim of this book is to inspire us to do good, and not complacently sit on our hands. Efforts on his part, and that of others, are perhaps beginning to bear fruit. The amount of litigation has definitely come down, but much is yet to be achieved. And that is why this book had to be written and demands to be read, because all of us have to fight for the rights of those who fought for us, day in and day out.
The book was published in January 2018 by Notion Press. Priced at Rs 395, it is available online at the following links:
The views expressed by the Author in this note are her own.
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