New Delhi: Rashtrapati Bhavan sources have denied receiving any letter supposedly written by armed forces veterans to the President requesting his intervention in the increased instances of politicisation of armed forces.
A letter, allegedly signed by 156 veterans -- among whom are former Army, Air Force and Navy chiefs-- has been circulating on social media, saying: " ...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."
It referred to "unusual and completely unacceptable practice of political leaders taking credit for military operations like cross-border strikes...".
The letter was reportedly sent to the President on Thursday, the day 2019 Lok Sabha elections began.
Among the veterans whose signatures are seen at the end of the letter- 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.
There is a controversy now that a letter has been signed by these top officials.
Former Army chief General (retired) SF Rodrigues tweeted:
Gen SF Rodrigues: Don’t know what it(purported letter written by armed forces veterans to Pres)is all about.All my life,we've been apolitical.Aftr,42 yrs as officer,it's a little late to change.Always put India first.Don’t know who these ppl are,classic manifestation of fake news pic.twitter.com/Cgpo57sVhq— ANI (@ANI) April 12, 2019
Former Air Force chief NC Suri also said, "This is not Admiral Ramdas’ letter (purported letter written by armed forces veterans to President) and it has been done by some Major Chaudhary. He has written this and it was coming on WhatsApp and emails."
"To put an end to it, I wrote that armed forces are apolitical and support the politically elected goverment. 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," Suri added.
Major General Harsha Kakkar said: “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.”
Recently, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adiyanath referred the armed forces as “Modiji ki Sena”, which triggered a controversy. Opposition and former Army officials said that apolitical entities such as armed forces should not be dragged into politics.
The letter was shared widely in social media. Reacting to the letter, Congress tweeted:
Modi may try to use soldiers for votes, but it's clear that soldiers stand with India and not the BJP.— Congress (@INCIndia) April 12, 2019
156 Veterans of the Indian Armed Forces including 8 former Chiefs of Staff write to the President of India urging him to act against Modi for trying to use soldiers for votes. https://t.co/NHUVDH2BeY
The signatories expressed concerns over photos of Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman at election campaigns. The Election Commission asked the parties not to use the images of armed forces personnel in campaigns.
Here is 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.
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.
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