A Twitter handle linked to the Indian Army had to delete a tweet it had posted earlier this week, showing images of an Iftar gathering in District Doda of Jammu and Kashmir, which had been organised by the forces. The tweet was reportedly pulled down because of trolling by social media users, who were all Hindus.
The ‘PRO Defence Jammu’ handle had posted photographs of the Iftar on Twitter on 20 April, and added a caption: “Keeping alive the traditions of secularism, an Iftaar was organised by the Indian Army at Arnora in Doda district. #Ramadan”.
Technically managed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the Twitter handle also speaks for Jammu-based formations of the Indian Army.
Voices of alert Hindus
Reacting to pictures of the Iftar gathering shared by this handle of the army, Sudarshan TV editor-in-chief Suresh Chavhanke said in a tweet, “Now this illness has entered the Indian Army as well? Sad.”
Chavhanke’s remarks invoked both praise and criticism with many social media users taking a cue from him to criticise the army and others reprimanding him for commenting on the armed forces.
“I respect my Indian army a lot but, this kind of stuff suits on politicians,” one user wrote, in support of Chavhanke’s remarks.
Another user took a dig at the army, asking whether enemies like Pakistan, or even China, would desist from attacking India, seeing that its army organises Iftar.
An apparently Muslim user was not impressed by the army’s act of hosting the Iftar. She wrote: “stop extolling the secular virtues of indian army because of that iftar image! are your standards are so low that you would forgive war criminals and murderers so easily? some of you are painting the indian army as a “victim” of hindu supremacists. lol, they are the a-team.”
Asked whether the tweet was considered contentious and therefore deleted, an officer said, “The trolling was too high. The tweet was deleted to ensure that no more controversy remains but yes, the deletion has led to more controversy. But deletion does not mean the forces are supporting any side. Our traditions and celebrations will continue.”
The Indian Army, while insisting it is committed to secularism and that it follows no religion, has been observed going out of its way to accommodate Muslims, those who supported Chavhanke’s tweets opined.
But the army says it’s the equanimity towards all faiths that led it to build the Sarva Dharma Sthal, a place of worship for all religions, which is a key feature at army bases across the country. The tradition of the forces demands that every soldier, regardless of religion, celebrates all festivals.
“In the army, you will have Muslim officers and me participating in a Hindu festival or even havan and, similarly, Hindus taking part in festival of other religions. Every unit reaches out to the local community on festivals and occasions which are there locally and Doda iftar has been going on for ages. It is sad to see the army being targeted like this,” said the Hindu officer above, who did not wish to be identified.
Another officer pointed out that the army had only one religion — India.
Another user wrote, “Mr Suresh, keep yourself away from commenting on the working, custom and traditions of Armed Forces. We Don’t need your advice or suggestions.”
Aakash, social media convener of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), took to the microblogging site to slam Chavhanke for his remarks. “If there is so much problem with [Indian army] go and stay in Pakistan,” he wrote.
Many others also expressed their disappointment with the Indian Army for deleting the tweet.