New Delhi: Over 150 veterans, including eight former service chiefs, have written a letter to the President of India and Supreme Commander of the Armed forces Ram Nath Kovind, urging him to intervene against the politicisation of the military in the Lok Sabha election of 2019.
It is as much an indictment of the opposition as it is of the government that is using examples from the India-Pakistan strife in their electoral campaigns.
Sirf News is highlighting parts of the text of the letter that refer to the acts of politicians, cutting across party lines, which the veterans have objected to.
The military veterans wrote (quoted verbatim),
“Dear Shri Ram Nath Kovind Ji,
We, the signatories, are Armed Forces Veterans who have served in the defence of our nation in various appointments, in peacetime and in operational and war zones over the past several decades.
The apolitical and secular nature of India’s Armed Forces has been an article of faith for every soldier, sailor and airman. India’s Armed Forces have loyally upheld the democratic principle of civil control over the military. Their military professionalism on and off the field, combined with the devotion to duty in protecting India’s territorial sovereignty and national integrity, remains widely appreciated.
The soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Armed Forces owe allegiance to the Constitution of India, of which you, as President of the Indian Union, are the legal custodian. It is for this reason that the President is also the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and we serve and execute orders at the will of the President and as decided from time to time by the Executive — that is, the Government of the day.
You would be aware that those in active service (men and women of all ranks in the Army, Navy and Air Force) cannot speak out, even on matters which might affect their interests adversely, since they are subject to military law and are governed by the parliamentary Acts of their respective Service.
However, we Veterans being in continuous touch with our own military fraternity, as also with serving personnel at all levels, have a ‘finger on the pulse’, so to speak. And it is for this reason that we write to bring to your attention, as the Supreme Commander of India’s Armed Forces, some concerns which have caused considerable alarm and disquiet among both the serving and the retired personnel of our Forces.
We refer, Sir, to the unusual and completely unacceptable practice of political leaders taking credit for military operations like cross-border strikes, and even going so far as to claim the Armed Forces to be “Modi ji ki Sena”. This is in addition to media pictures of election platforms and campaigns in which party workers are seen wearing military uniforms, and posters and images with pictures of soldiers and especially of Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman displayed.
We do appreciate that complaints by some senior retired personnel, including a written submission from a former Chief of the Naval Staff to the Chief Election Commissioner, have elicited a prompt response. Indeed a notification has been issued asking for an explanation from those responsible for these statements, including from the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. However, we regret to state that these do not appear to have resulted in any substantive change of behaviour and practice on the ground.
With the General elections round the corner, and given the prevailing environment where political parties and candidates seem to be acting in total disregard of the declaration of the ‘model code of conduct’, we fear that such incidents may only increase as polling day draws near.
We believe that you will surely agree that any such misuse of the Armed Forces established under the Constitution of India and under the supreme command of the President of India, would impinge adversely on the morale and fighting efficiency of the serving man or woman in uniform. It could therefore directly affect national security and national integrity.
We, therefore, appeal to you to ensure that the secular and a-political character of our Armed Forces is preserved.
We hereby respectfully urge you to take all necessary steps to urgently direct all political parties that they must forthwith desist from using the military, military uniforms or symbols, and any actions by military formations or personnel, for political purposes or to further their political agendas.
This communication is copied to the Chief Election Commissioner of the Election Commission of India for information and action. We, the undersigned, endorse the above. Yours Faithfully. (*Signed )”
Denial by Rashtrapati Bhavan, some veterans
The Rashtrapati Bhavan or the office of the President has denied having received any such letter. “We have received no such letter,” a Rashtrapati Bhavan source said.
Further, some of the veterans whose names appear in the letter as signatories have denied they have signed on any such paper.
Some of the veterans named in the letter above are three former Army chiefs — General (retired) SF Rodrigues, General (retired) Shankar Roy Chowdhury and General (retired) Deepak Kapoor, four former Navy chiefs and former Air Force chief NC Suri.
“I wrote that armed forces are apolitical and support the politically elected government. And no, my consent has not been taken for any such letter. I don’t agree with whatever has been written in that letter. We have been misquoted,” Air Chief Marshal (retired) NC Suri told ANI.
“We in the services have always done what the government in power ordered us. We are an instrument of the state. We are apolitical. Anyone can say anything and then sell it as fake news. I don’t know who this gentleman is who wrote this,” General (retired) Rodrigues told news agency ANI.
— ANI (@ANI) April 12, 2019
Some other veterans, speaking to the news agency, denied having signed this letter too.
Former Army Vice Chief Lt General ML Naidu( who is mentioned at 20th in the list of armed forces veterans who purportedly wrote letter to President): No, my consent has not been taken for any such letter and neither have I written any such letter. (file pic) pic.twitter.com/v8H35Hp2WN
— ANI (@ANI) April 12, 2019
But some veterans have confirmed they signed this letter.
Major General Harsha Kakkar (who is 31st on the list of armed forces veterans who purportedly wrote letter to President): Yes, I had given my consent for being a signatory to the letter. I had given my consent only after knowing the contents of it. (file pic) pic.twitter.com/o8rqGfqyAp
— ANI (@ANI) April 12, 2019