BY RSN SINGH
The recent controversy generated by the affidavit filed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in the Supreme Court related to a case of promotion of one Lt Gen Dastane to the appointment of Army Commander, drew some strange characters ganging up to decry the former Army Chief Gen VK Singh. They were on an overdrive to endorse the affidavit, which labeled a particular disciplinary action initiated by Gen VK Singh against his subordinate during service as ‘illegal’, ‘malafide’, ‘premeditated’, etc. At the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), the same affidavit was filed by the outgoing UPA government, which, as is widely known, abhorred humans with integrity. The same affidavit was repeated under the new dispensation. The government changed, but not the ‘arms lobby’! The same arms lobby which boasted having bought a service chief and ‘the family’.
On the television channels, this ‘arms lobby’ again fielded its spin doctors. The attack this time on VK Singh was fiercer than during the age row. Even some old Generals waiting at the departure lounge of life were roped in. Their unfounded tirade was based on two very convenient themes, ‘morale’ and ‘image’ of armed forces. It is another matter that each time these characters opened their mouth, given their own record, the image and morale of the armed forces plummeted.
The latest controversy essentially revolves around a ‘Colonel’ posted in 3 Corps. This Colonel, if the media, locals and civil authorities are to be believed, had developed stakes in every undesirable activity ranging from extortion to drug-trafficking. The networking abilities of the Officer was desperately sought to manipulate media and the people during Gen VK Singh’s ‘Date of Birth’ controversy. He was sent on ‘temporary duty’ to Delhi on the tax-payers money several times to setup a conglomeration of crooks in the media, the army, politics and the bureaucracy. These characters by now are familiar faces.
Meanwhile, true to his wont, in December 2011, this Officer and his team was accused of raiding a house of a contractor in Jorhat and committing dacoity. The CM of Assam spoke to the then Army Chief Gen VK Singh urging timely and fair investigation. The Court of Inquiry let off this Officer and his accomplices with little or no punishment, compelling the victim to approach the Gauhati High Court.
Even a more serious crime committed in March 2010 by this Officer and his team, surfaced in 2012. They allegedly killed three civilians in Northeast in ‘cold blood’, a fact vouched for by his subordinate Officer. This crime occurred clearly during the period when the said Corps Commander was not in-charge. Nevertheless, when this was exposed in media and elsewhere, the new Corps Commander was directed by the Army Chief to conduct a thorough trial and punish the guilty in accordance with the Law.
Given the services rendered by this Officer in the DOB issue, the inquiry ordered by the Corps Commander was perfunctory. Considering the seriousness of charge, like murder, the perpetrators were given insignificant punishment. The then Army Chief held the Corps Commander responsible for this deliberate shielding.
Subsequently on advice of the Discipline and Vigilance Directorate (DV Directorate), and the Judge and Advocate General Branch (JAG), the then Army Chief imposed a ban on the Corps Commander. A ‘Show Cause Notice’ was served. Having failed to respond in the stipulated time, the Corps Commander asked for extension, which was duly granted. This Commander, however, had other designs and proceeded on leave only to rejoin after Gen VK Singh’s had retired. Very upright and courageous Officer indeed.
When Gen VK Singh retired, the DV ban in respect of this Commander was lifted at astounding pace despite opposition from quarters in the DV Directorate. Till then the chair of Army Commander waited for this Officer.
The outcome of the DV ban review was therefore ‘prejudged’ and ‘premeditated’!
Meanwhile, another contender for the Army Commander’s post, Lt Gen Dastane filed a case in the Armed Forces Tribunal taking the plea that during the period that the appointment of Army Commander was vacant, he as the senior most Officer was the rightful claimant.
The affidavit filed in the Supreme Court did not attract any attention during its journey to the AFT. No sooner it arrived at the Supreme Court under the new dispensation; it was leaked to one newspaper, known for masquerading deliberate leaks as ‘investigative journalism’. A lawyer-cum-politician, whose amorous adventures the world has been witness to, asked for Gen VK Singh’s resignation. Another politician with amorous links across the border demanded Gen VK Singh’s head.
Gen VK Singh in reaction tweeted “If unit kills innocents, does dacoity and then head of organization tries to protect them, should he not be blamed? Criminals should go free!!’
The General was absolutely right and if I were in his place, I would have reiterated the tweet every fresh morning, because the continuance of dacoits and criminals in the Army is cancerous to the ‘morale’ and ‘image’ of the organization.
Tainted Generals must stop preaching
During this overdrive by the ‘arms lobby’ to engineer the ouster of Gen VK Singh from the Cabinet, a former Army Chief made a massive grandstanding. He spoke about the thorough procedures followed in selecting Army Chiefs and how people of best caliber and character reach that position. General Sir, does it include Gen VK Singh, and what is your take on the supersession of Lt Gen SK Sinha?
General Sir, tell the country, how is it that two Army Chiefs tried to appropriate houses meant for Kargil Widows?
General Sir, how is it that an Army Chief vies to be the President of a club in Delhi after retirement and his illustrious son finds India too backward to absorb his genius in business, and decides to settle in France?
General Sir, since when has this Tatra theft been going on? The money that could have utilized for more pressing needs of the Army was siphoned. How is it that it did not come to the notice of other Army Chiefs? Were they in league with the ‘arms dealers’?
General Sir, the Indian Army has been starved of a 155mm gun, to the extent that Bofors guns and ammunition was flown from Eastern theatre to Western theatre during the Kargil conflict to make up the shortage. How is it that none of the Army Chiefs told the government and the people of the country that we have the ‘transfer of technology’ for Bofors for which the country paid during the 80s. The Indian Ordnance Factory has now produced prototype of these guns and the trials are more than encouraging.
General Sir, how is it that no one has taken responsibility for Kargil? Instead the senior officers shamelessly awarded themselves after the conflict, for what was a failure of operational and tactical intelligence. Where was the operational genius of the Generals in fighting a war, wherein the attacks were mostly frontal?
General Sir, will you now share with the country that in Operation Parakaram, we lost more than 1200 men in laying and recovery of minefields. These casualties were more than what we suffered in 1971 war.
General Sir, will you cross your heart and say that you would have prevented the Sukhna deal, if you were in chair?
Age controversy of Gen VK Singh
All the retired Generals, who are detractors of Gen VK Singh, should be asked whether the DOB mentioned in their respective ‘identity cards’ was correct? If they maintain NO they should be sent to jail, and if they say YES, then they should be asked that how come DOB in respect of General VK Singh reflected in his ‘identity card’ can be treated as wrong? They should also be asked on what basis a rapist recently was declared ‘juvenile’? These detractors mislead people on the media by saying that the Supreme Court did not uphold the General’s contention of his DOB? Can any of these frauds share the judgment with the people of buttress their case?
Well, Gen VK Singh while filing his nomination paper for Lok Sabha mentioned his date of birth 10-May-1951, the date he has been unwavering about in face of severest of trials. Will these frauds challenge it in the Supreme Court? One can imagine the sense of fair play and justice, when these frauds were at the helm.
Generals and Politics
The ‘arms lobby’ employed its agents to deter Gen VK Singh from joining politics. A vicious and sustained media campaign was launched. Some former service chiefs began to pontificate in the media about the undesirability of General’s joining politics. They had to be reminded that the first Army Chief Gen Cariappa had fought elections on Shiv Sena ticket from Mumbai. They had to be reminded that 72 percent of the presidents of the United States have been from the Armed Forces.
These pontificators had no qualms about vying for ‘Governor’s Office’. Most of them could not make it because of the limited number of vacancies in the Northeast. They have no qualms about their illustrious predecessors becoming Governor, a thorough political animal. They have also no self-respect in accepting Ambassadorship of low priority countries. Two of these detractors, who tried to ingratiate themselves to the previous regime, were shameless enough to reach the BJP headquarters seeking sinecure once the constitution of ‘Veteran Commission’ was announced.
The detractors then began to predict that Gen VK Singh would not win the election. The arms lobby did everything to ensure his defeat. Once he won by the second highest margin in the country, they began to lobby for his non-inclusion into the Cabinet.
The inference regarding the reach and the cruel purpose of the arms lobby can be drawn from the insinuations with regards to the recent developments in the Indian Navy. There were series of 13 accidents, including two submarines, all on the shore. Self-proclaimed experts attributed it to ‘age related problems’ of the inventory of Indian Navy. The accident of the submarines, it was said was due to faulty batteries. The Navy Chief resigned. He is yet to open his mouth. After 49 days, an Officer superseded his senior and found himself as the Naval Chief. This Officer has not served as FOC-in-C. By sheer osmosis of the personality of this Officer, all ‘age-related problems’ of the Navy have disappeared. The ‘Line of Succession’ is in place and so is the behaviour of naval inventory.
The mélange of people that the ‘arms lobby’ had assembled to vilify Gen VK Singh in the recent episode was bewildering. It included former diplomats with no locus-standi, a retired General, who refuses to age gracefully and has been thrashed comprehensively in the recent elections and a publisher of a defence magazine who thrives on advertisements by foreign arms manufacturers. A journalist, who earlier had pulled out a drunken diplomat from the winter of his life to extract a statement: ‘VK Singh is the worst Army Chief, India had’, was again on an overdrive. The compulsion of this drunken diplomat, it is believed was that he too had been the beneficiary of the well-oiled Tatra theft circuit.
(RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research & Analysis Wing. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan, he is also a Guest Blogger with Canary Trap. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)