New Delhi: A group of retired military veterans, including eight former chiefs of the Armed Forces, have shot off a protest letter to President Ram Nath Kovind appealing to him to ensure that the “secular” and “apolitical character”of our Armed Forces is preserved.
The letter expresses concern at the use of the military operations for electoral or political purposes.
The President is the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. The letter was sent on Thursday night through email with copies to the Election Commission.
The letter that has more than 150 signatories, includes three former chiefs of the Army–Gen SF Rodrigues, Gen Shankar Roy Chowdhury and Gen Deepak Kapoor—and four former chiefs of the Navy–Admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas, Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, Admiral Arun Prakash and Admiral Sureesh Mehta.
It also has former Indian Air Force chief, Air Chief Marshal NC Suri (retd) as a signatory.
Besides, the signatories include retired Army Commander-level officers, gallantry awardees, former fighter pilots, among others.
The recent developments have caused “some concern and considerable alarm and disquiet among both the serving and retired personnel of our forces,” says the letter.
They referred 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 “Modiji ki sena”.
This is in addition to the media pictures of election platforms and campaigns in which party workers are seen wearing military uniforms; and posters with pictures of soldiers, especially of IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, displayed on them.
“Such misuse of the Armed Forces established under the Constitution and under the supreme command of the President, 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,” the signatories have warned.
The letter urges the President to take necessary steps urgently and all political parties have been asked to 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 soldiers, sailors and airmen owe allegiance to the Constitution, of which you, as President, are the legal custodian, the letter says.
A letter to the Chief Election Commissioner last month had elicited a prompt response. 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,” the letter says.