From Military Coup To Toppling J&K Government
Not long ago a national newspaper, of considerable standing, ‘in headlines’ on its front page had created a stir amongst the public by raising the specter of a military coup, engineered by the then army chief. The provocation was the move of two minor units (in all 1,000 soldiers ) towards Delhi, at a time when army chief’s case concerning his date of birth was being taken up with the Supreme Court. At any one time there are over thirty thousand troops in Delhi cantonment, so how did another thousand matter! Now the same paper on its front page, notes, ‘Undesirable activities by a rouge intelligence unit of the army’ undertaken by the same army chief (now retired.)
No Lessons Learnt
The story of coup at Delhi turned out to be hoax: a creation entirely of that paper. Though the paper ended up with an egg on its face, it has learnt no lesson and has now put out another daft story of snooping on Ministry of Defence (MoD) and toppling a state government, just because the government of that state wants the removal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act, (AFSPA). The paper may not know that this noise about removal of AFSPA is purely for public consumption. Behind closed doors the state government’s stand is different. Tell that government that the army is being pulled out from internal security duties from the state and you will see the panic in that very government. For the military, counter terrorist operations in J&K, are of no great interest and is the least preferred task. It is there on this job because the state and central police simply cannot measure upto the task.
It is alleged that a sum of Rs 1.9 crore was used to destabilise the present state government, but it stops short of telling us the amount required to dislodge the central government! The paper may not know that the government, which would have replaced the present set-up in J&K would be more vocal in removal of AFSPA and is known to be hostile towards the army.
Equipment in Question
The equipment under reference is for intercepting radio communications and was purchased and held by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) which is part of the MoD and not the army. However such equipment is essential for the army deployed on counter terrorist tasks to get to locate, ‘enemy intelligence cells’ and others involved in terrorist activities. Our ammunition dump at Poonch is well tucked behind a high ridge and it is near impossible for the Pak artillery to score a hit, unless someone nearby can correct fire by constantly passing information to Pak guns. During ‘Kirni operation’ Pak scored a hit on this dump and destroyed part of the ammunition and we had no means to locate the mole who was directing Pak artillery fire. The same was the case at Kargil when Pak hit our ammunition dump and we had no means to locate and hunt out that mole. Army required such an equipment on priority but never got it. To allege that army had deployed some of this equipment to know what was going on in the MoD is absurd. Firstly, this equipment was never with the army and secondly nothing worthwhile takes place in that ministry for one to snoop!
Allegation of attempts to alter the line of accession, for the post of the army chief, is equally absurd. No one, other than the government, can do this and it did so on two previous occasions. First in the case of Lt-Gen Prem Bhagat, VC and second in the case of Lt-Gen Sinha, for no valid reason except to have a pliable replacement: against the best interest of the army and the nation.
This report on the actions of military intelligence (albeit NIA) and VK Singh’s involvement in all this was given to the defence minister sometime in March, 2013 and now towards the end of September, 2013, it has been dug out, soon after Gen (Retd) VK Singh attended an ex-servicemen rally addressed by Modi. Even the dumb witted can connect the two events.
It may be recalled that this very paper had highlighted the leakage of top–secret letter written by VK Singh to the PM and pointed the finger of suspicion at VK Singh. Nothing came of the CBI enquiry, because the leakage had allegedly taken place from the office of the cabinet secretary and that a lady officer was involved.
There is a perceptible fall of standards of journalism. Remember, the editor of another paper published a series of articles, under his name, on the age row of VK Singh and pray who was the actual author of those articles! The dimensions of the case and sustained witch hunting of an army chief and its possible implication for the army as an institution are of such far reaching consequences, that an enquiry by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court is warranted.
(The writer is Former Deputy Chief of Army Staff. He also commanded a corps in J&K.) (Indian Defence Review)