Army veterans write letter to the President against politicisation of armed forces

Earlier today controversy over army veterans writing a letter to President emerged where it was claimed that eight former service chiefs and 148 other military veterans have written to President Ram Nath Kovind expressing “alarm and disquiet” at the armed forces being used for “political purposes”.
The letter reported to have been sent to President Ram Nath Kovind on Thursday, the first day of the national election, refers to the “unusual and completely unacceptable practice of political leaders taking credit for military operations like cross-border strikes and claiming the armed forces to be ‘Modi Ji Ki Sena”.
Triggering a controversy, several senior retired officers, including two former service chiefs, denied having signed the letter.
The President’s office has however denied supposedly receiving a letter from the army veterans against ‘politicisation’ of armed forces in the ongoing Lok Sabha Elections 2019, sources in the office said.
The signatories of the letter included former Army chiefs General (retired) SF Rodrigues, General (retired) Shankar Roy Chowdhury and General (retired) Deepak Kapoor, former IAF chief Air Chief Marshal (retired) NC Suri,  three former Navy chiefs Admiral (retired) L Ramdas, Admiral (retired) Arun Prakash, Admiral (retired) Mehta and Admiral (retired) Vishnu Bhagwat also signed the letter.

Hours after the development, three top-ranking defence officers also denied signing a letter written to the President Ram Nath Kovind.

“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’,”

cited the letter.

The military veterans said it was a matter of considerable concern and disquiet among both the serving and the retired personnel that the armed forces are being used to pursue political agenda.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath recently referred to the armed forces as “Modiji ki Sena” at an election rally in Uttar Pradesh, triggering strong reactions from the opposition parties.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also asked first-time voters to dedicate their votes to soldiers who carried out the airstrike in Balakot.

The Election Commission had cited strong objection to these comments by political parties during election campaigns.

In the letter, the military veterans also expressed disappointment over the usage of photos of Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman and other soldiers at election campaigns and party workers wearing military uniforms

The army veterans praised the Election Commission for seeking an explanation from Adityanath over his remark, the letter added that they “regret to state that these do not appear to have resulted in any substantive change of behaviour and practice on the ground.”

Urging President Ram Nath Kovind to look into the matter, the letter said, “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.”

“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,” the letter read.

“We respectfully urge you [President] 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,” the letter added.

While some of the army veterans denied signing the letter, former Major General Harsha Kakkar accepted to have supported the letter and signhing it.

Former army chief Sunith Francis Rodrigues called reports of him signing the letter fake news while former IAF chief NC Suri said his consent wasn’t sought for the letter. Former Army vice chief Lt General ML Naidu also denied writing the letter.

“I don’t know what it is all about. All my life, we’ve been apolitical. After 42 years as an officer, it’s a little late to change. We in the services have always done what the government in power ordered us, we are an instrument of the state. Anyone can say anything and then sell it as fake news, I don’t know who this gentleman is who wrote this,” Rodrigues was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman also hit out at the purported letter and termed the reports of the same as condemnable. “Two senior officers said they have not given consent, worrying that fake letters being signed by vested groups. Condemnable. Rashtrapati Bhawan has also said that they have not received the letter,” she said

At a time when the country is in the midst of elections, a letter addressed to the President Ram Nath Kovind by the retired army chiefs may impact the election process to some extent.

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