New Delhi, Apr 12 : In an unprecedented move, over 150 ex-servicemen, including eight former Army, two Navy and one Air Force chiefs, have written a letter to the President of India against the “politicization” of the armed forces in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections, started April 11.
However, sources in the Rashtrapati Bhawan have denied that it has received any letter.
The letter, titled ‘From A Group of Veterans To Our Supreme Commander’, registered a strong objection to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s ‘Modiji ki Sena’ statement.
"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"," the letter said . It also referring to the use of military uniforms and photos of Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman during campaigning.
"… 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," the letter said.
The signatories, which included three former Army chiefs — Sunith Francis Rodrigues, Shankar Roychowdhury, Deepak Kapoor; four former Navy chiefs — Laxminarayan Ramdas, Vishnu Bhagwat, Arun Prakash, Suresh Mehta; and former Air Force chief NC Suri, urged President Ram Nath Kovind, the supreme commander of armed forces, 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 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 letter said.
''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,'' the letter added.
"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," the signatories said.
"We therefore appeal to you to ensure that the secular and a-political character of our Armed Forces is preserved," they said in the letter.
However, some of the veterans said that they have not given consent for such a letter.
Reactoing to the letter, AICC spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi also alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP Chief Amit Shah are using the armed forces for their political mileage.
"This was the first time that 156 veterans have come out and wrote letter to the President against politicisation of the armed forces. The prime minister and Amit Shah are using the Pulwama attack and Balakot airstrike for their political gains. With such behaviour, it lowers the the morale of forces. After Kargil war, then then Army Chief Gen VP Malik had requested the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee for not using the armed forces in the election campaign. This thing he has revealed in his book," she said.
Meanwhile, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman claimed that the letter was not authentic and stated that two of the veterans' had not given their consent for the petition. And also that, "It is worrying that fake allegations are being signed by some vested interest groups." (UNI)