Former Army chiefs write to President, say, army being used for votes| READ FULL LETTER

Gen Deepak Kapoor

The Hush Post| 15:36 pm |one-minute-read|

Eight former Army chiefs and more than 100 veterans have written to President Ram Nath Kovind, the supreme commander of the armed forces, concerned about the use of the military and referring to recent airstrikes in Balakot to garner votes in the Lok Sabha election 2019.

The general elections kicked off on Thursday as the country went for polling in 91 of the 543 seats of Lok Sabha.

The veterans have said the Indian military is apolitical in nature and structure and that “India’s Armed Forces have loyally upheld the democratic principle of civil control over the military.”

The letter was reportedly signed by former army chiefs General SF Rodrigues and General Deepak Kapoor, former Air Chief Marshal NC Suri and former navy chief Suresh Mehta among several others. However, later Air Marshal Suri clarified that he hadn’t signed the letter. Also Gen SF Rodrigues clarified that he too hadn’t signed this letter. Following is what he said:

They expressed concern that the EC directive did not appear to have “resulted in any substantive change of behaviour and practice on the ground.”

Through the letter, they also said that political parties are disregarding the model code of conduct and expressed apprehensions that “such incidents may only increase as polling day draws near.”

The veterans released the letter to the media late in the night after round one of the seven-phased Lok Sabha polls 2019 came to end on Thursday.

The letter particularly referred to the phrase, “Modi ji ki Sena” used by Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath during a political rally in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad in March.

“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’,” the letter says. The Election Commission has already asked Yogi Adityanath to be “more careful” in future.

The Election Commission had also asked political parties not use photographs of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who shot down a Pakistan Air Force Jet over the Line of Control before being captured by Pakistan on February 27.

The veterans also referred to photographs of the election campaign 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”.

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The full text of the letter:

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.

UNACCEPTABLE PRACTICE

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 around 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.

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