There are few people in India, who know or talk about the Indian military intervention in Sri Lanka, that began on 29th July 1987 thirty four years ago, and lasted for 967 days, having taken the lines of 1155 brave Indian soldiers, and left over 3000 injured – some permanently so, and without a limb or worse – who returned home only to learn that they’d fought a war that India had chosen to forget!
In fact even our dead soldiers were mostly cremated in Sri Lanka. Worse still, it took twenty years after Indian soldiers were bloodied in their battles in Sri Lanka, that a memorial to the gallant Indian soldiers was constructed at the outskirts of Colombo, in Sri Jayawardenapura Kote in 2008.
And it took another two years before the first official memorial service was held on 15th August 2010 by the Indian high commission. Now they visit the site every Republic and Independence Day of India. There are few if any memorial services in India to those unsung heroes. Compare this to the Kargil conflict- where India lost half the number of soldiers compared to Sri Lanka – which gets mentioned regularly.
It is the only conflict that our younger generation knows about, because it was televised and remains the subject of modern military folklore in India. Indeed, victory has many fathers but defeat has none. Like the Americans in Afghanistan recently, the Indian Army wasn’t defeated in the sense that Pakistan was in 1971 or at Kargil in 1999, but its morale was damaged when it pulled out in March 1990, having been unable to achieve enough.
The Indian establishment has refused to officially comment on that botched up conflict, throwing the memories of the gallantry of our soldiers into the dustbin of time! So why were Indian troops sent to Sri Lanka?