Do Not Drag Army in the Cesspool of Politics

While addressing interns and senior officers of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on 26 December 2019 at the Manav Adhikar Bhawan on "Preserving Human Rights in Times of War and Prisoners of War", Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat said that the Indian armed forces have utmost regard for laws related to human rights and they not only ensure protection of human rights of people of the country but also of its adversaries while dealing with the Prisoners of War under the Geneva Conventions. However, just a day before what he said about the true leadership while speaking at Six Sigma Healthcare Excellence Awards 2019 before the students instantly became a national controversy inviting sharp reaction and criticism from the Indian National Congress and Left parties.

But this is not for the first time as many political leaders, particularly with left and left-centric approach and ideology, apparently believe that public speech or freedom of expression is a copyright of the politicians like them and everyone else must dutifully do only assigned job or business at he earmarked desk closed doors. In the past too, when the Army Chief defended the action of his officer catching-hold a stone-pelter and tying with the Army jeep for a while to ensure safe passage through a hostile and violent mob  for rescuing the polling team comprising of civilian officers and a police party at a polling station in Kashmir during April 2017, he was severely assailed by the same parties and leaders calling it a “Dyer Moment” of the gory British era. Those who keep in touch with history would remember how British General Dyer’s troops had opened indiscriminate fire on a peaceful gathering in Jallianwala Bagh, Punjab on 13th April, 1919 rendering some 379 people killed and about 1200 wounded - though the unofficial figures talk of much greater toll.

So let’s see what he actually said leading to so much fuss and furor. Without naming any political or religious party or leader and any past or recent event, General Rawat said: “Leadership is all about leading. What is complex about it if it is all about leading! When you move forward everybody follows; it is not that simple; it appears simple but it is a very complex phenomenon; even amongst the crowd you find leaders emerge but leaders are those who lead people in the right direction. Leaders are not those who lead people in inappropriate directions, as we are witnessing in a large number of universities and college students. The way they are leading masses of crowds to carry out arson and violence in our cities and towns; this is not leadership… So leadership is through personal example and that is what we in the armed forces are proud of. Each and every leader in the Indian Army, Defence forces has proved his worth as a leader and that is what I think makes us stand out among our people*.

People who led the personal attack on Army Chief are same who have been compulsive critic of the Indian military and its top Generals on many occasions in the past. Linking his remarks with the ongoing planned and engineered unrest and lawlessness against the government following Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 involving mostly left-wing students and misguided people of one particular community, the crux of criticism by the Congress leaders like Digvijay Singh, Sandip Dixit, P. Chidambaram, Communist Party (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yetury and others, basically was that “it was none of his (General) business” to speak on the subject. AIMIM Chief Asaduddin Owaisi, who seldom misses an opportunity to take a dig at the Indian army, said: “that leadership is about knowing the limits of one's office…It is about understanding the idea of civilian supremacy and preserving the integrity of the institution that you head."

The sharpest attack amongst all came from Mr P. Chidambaram, a former Union Finance and Home Minister, telling Army Chief to “mind his business” while speaking at the “Maha Rally” against the new legislation on citizenship at Thiruvanathapuram in Kerala. He alleged that the Army Chief and Director General of Police in Uttar Pradesh had been asked to support the government and it was a “shame”. It is not the business of Army to tell politicians what they should do. From the aforesaid remarks, besides politics he also appears to have mastered the art of reading the minds of people and business transpired behind closed doors. Significantly the aforesaid heavy-weight politician has been currently released on bail after spending over two months in judicial custody in Tihar jail in Delhi for serious corruption charges in the multi-crores INX Media case, which the Central Bureau of Investigation is probing from the corruption angle and Enforcement Directorate is investigating for the money laundering.

So apparently this is a country where many arrogant and shameless politicians believe that only they have a copyright on politics; they can incite people to unleash arson and violence in public and on roads, they can commit or spew whatever shit they want in the garb of politics but senior and responsible army and police officer should never talk “sense” even. Perhaps in their reckoning, these officers are just robots meant for clearing muck created by the them. Some of the same detractors even invoked the provisions of Army Act to scold and mute Army Chief in the instant case. Let's see what Army Rules of 1954 provide for:

"It restrict serving officers to attend, address, or take part in any meeting or demonstration held for a party or any political purposes; publicly announce himself or allow himself to be publicly announced as a candidate or as a prospective candidate for election to Parliament, the legislature of a State or a local authority, or any public body; publish or go to the Press for any matter relating to a political issue; and address people in a matter relating to a political question."

The current unrest of students in some universities and the misguided people of one community leading to countrywide unrest and lawlessness through large scale arson and violence has been intently caused by the same political parties through a systematic and sustained misinformation campaign. The fact is the Citizen Amendment Act 2019 does not have any impact on Indian citizens of any community in anyway; instead, it will only facilitate the persecuted minorities from the three neighbouring Islamic countries to receive Indian citizenship. So it is the  ruckus created by politicians, which police and army is roped in to endure with a view to restore the law and order. I still remember my graduation days in Lucknow in 1973 when unruly and violent students put several university buildings including Regisrar office and Cashiers' office on fire, it was not state politicians or party volunteers but the local army units of the 11-Gorkha Regimental Centre, which were immediately rushed in to restore order and save university. In September 2014, when half of the Kashmir including Srinagar was inundated with devastating floods, this was Indian army which rescued and saved the life and property of Kashmiris, and not the separatists, stone-pelters or their political sympathiser and left ultra liberals.

With my own long experience with the Central Government operating senior levels, I am pretty well aware that the senior officers are often associated and invited by government and non-government organizations to deliver talk or share their experiences for the benefit of the target audience. There is nothing unusual in this and officers participate in these forums with due intimation or clearance, if required. General Bipin Rawat is not an ordinary government servant; instead as Chief of the world’s third largest army, he is responsible to guide and assist the national government on matters relating the internal security, management and relief during the natural disasters and defence of the country from the external aggression. Any well-meaning and aware citizen would know that irrespective of political leadership, the Indian armed forces have always carried out their duties and responsibilities in an apolitical and non-partition manner.

Actually some Indian politicians mediapersons and intellectuals/liberals have been habitually dragging the armed forces and their leadership in political controversies from time to time. In the past, they questioned and mocked their action and achievement during the surgical strike by the Indian army in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir to avenge Uri terror attacks, another surgical strike by Air Force at Jaish-e-Mohammad terror camp at Balakot, Pakistan to avenge Pulwama terror attack, action against the militants and stone-pelters in Kashmir on many occasions and even mired the acquisition of Rafale fighter jets from France with imaginary controversies and corruption charges, impinging upon the vital defence needs and national security. General Rawat was speaking on the subject of leadership among the young audience including students. Even supposedly, if sub-consciously he had the ongoing unrest and lawlessness by students in mind causing the nationwide ruckus, arson and violence, he neither named any political or religious party or leaders in his address nor violated any provision of the extant Army Rules; so what is the logic and rationale of this fuss and fury caused by raising political controversy!

Even Army spokesperson has formally clarified that Army Chief only commented on the leadership and did not name any political or religious leadership in it. He has every right to speak for the leadership for the betterment of students. One only hopes that the spate of the non-sensical criticism and controversy would stop now. Politicians and their followers including some retired service personnel should not deliberately drag armed forces in political controversies. I recall some time back in an interview to a national private media channel, Army Chief had clarified that the Indian Army has a long tradition of being secular and apolitical. They always work as per the programmes and policies of the government, irrespective of the party and ideology of the political leadership. Everybody should realize that they are neither robots nor have exposure like politicians to set  man against man or one community against another for selfish interests and electoral gains. Armed forces certainly deserve some space as normal human beings to talk sense even when in uniform. So forgive me if I sound little harsh in choice of words but please do not drag Army, or for that matter all three defence services, in the cesspool of politics.

*This is the text of video clip circulated by electronic media and press being interpreted by some politicians and their followers as political speech of Army Chief

More By  :  Dr. Jaipal Singh

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Comments on this Blog

Comment Thanks, Dr Raghavan, have a happy and rewarding year.

Jaipal Singh
02-Jan-2020 03:43 AM

Comment Thank you Dr. Jaipal for your additional inputs. I have not passed any judgments. I just talked of possible perceptions. Let us leave the matter there. Happy New Year.

Dr. K S Raghavan
01-Jan-2020 01:45 AM

Comment Thank you, Dr Raghvan, I value your comments.

I would like to give a few additional inputs for your consideration.

1. In this blog, Gen Rawat is just one aspect; basically, my thrust is on the disservice done by some political parties and left liberals who do not miss any opportunity to drag armed forces in controversies.
2. I was Director in MOD looking after Budget, Planning & Systems of the Defence Services when political decision was taken to have CDS after Kargil War and it took 20 years to finally appoint an incumbent; it is a food for thought why decision was not taken by earlier governments!
3. Who do you think should be appointed CDS who fits the bill, if not the retiring Army Chief?
4. How fair is this to stretch the gamut of a speech to an officer's appointment?
5. Are you aware that most key civil and military appointments in the government are by "Selection" and not mere seniority? In other cases too, it is seniority-cum-fitness, where the term fitness carries enough leverage in the hands of selectors. I do not rule out occasional bias but for many who miss the bus and play a victim's role, the reasons for disqualification remain buried in their service record known to only a few.
6. How much knowledge we have about the service profile and merit of officers superseded earlier in COAS appointment. In defence services also they have own Tribunals and High Courts/Supreme Court for redressal if injustice is caused in appointments.
7. Lastly, please see the background and merit of the critics (names are well known) who jump the guns all the time to question and criticize armed forces.

Jaipal Singh
31-Dec-2019 04:41 AM

Comment Dr. Jaipal, I don't contest any of the points in the article. You are entitled to your views and opinions. General Rawat's remarks appear harmless when read in isolation. But is liable to be interpreted differently if viewed in totality. Two events of relevance need to be considered. General Rawat was appointed as chief of army staff by the previous BJP government. He superseded two or three army officers in the process. Secondly, just yesterday Rawat has been elevated by the present government as the first ever "chief of defence staff". Not just the facts but what appears also matters.

Dr. K S Raghavan
30-Dec-2019 20:55 PM

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