The Chief of Army Staff, the head of the Indian Army who reports to the President of India as the Commander in Chief has a very tough job in managing the world’s third largest Army faced with challenges on our borders. His task becomes doubly difficult when ill-informed and uneducated politicians and journalists with flagging careers decide to take pot shots at him and his institution, with insufficient and incorrect data, with the sole objective of getting media coverage.
Nothing has changed with the Indian Army over the past seven decades. They have served the Indian Government, irrespective of political parties. They have defended our borders, managed insurgency and supported states to quell riots when called in by state governments.
Sandeep Dikshit, the son of former Delhi Chief Minister refers to the Army Chief as “sadak ka goonda” and then apologises. He knows that he can make an allegation and then retract very quickly either by saying that he was misquoted or when things it gets too hot, apologise meekly and change the subject. He has no concern for the damage caused by his utterances. What is Sandeep Dikshit’s claim to fame other than an inconsequential two-term Member of Parliament and being a part of the lucky sperm club using his family’s name and power for his personal benefit? Isn’t he one of the “sadak ka goons” who is trying to find relevance in a crowded political landscape of the Congress?
CPI(M) Prakash Karat, to gain traction in his struggling political career states "The army chief is reflecting the views of the Modi government which seeks to suppress the people of Kashmir, who are voicing their political protest, through the sole reliance on the use of force." Whom should the Chief of Army Staff brief when there is an intrusion from across the border? The dying and irrelevant party of Prakash Karat or Rahul Gandhi the leader of the defunct Congress Party?
Then there is the unknown and uncelebrated historian Partha Chatterjee who, to gain favours from his masters in West Bengal has the audacity to compare the Indian Army chief to the temporary Brigadier General Edward Harry Dyer in the British Army who was responsible for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. For him, a few seconds of glory are more important that the Indian Army chief.
Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam, who has become a non-entity in Maharashtra seeks proof of the surgical strike. Arvind Kejriwal, who has failed in governing Delhi and Mamata Banerjee, who has serious challenges within her state see such criticism as an opportunity to divert attention from their own problems. What are these leaders looking for? Are they willing to walk in front (or even walk behind) of the soldiers, video camera in hand filming these attacks?
Senior journalists who have clear left-liberal leanings and believe that as armchair analysts sitting in the security of their studios pontificate on what the Indian Army should do. And some of these journalists actually express their anger on why they were not briefed before the operation. Why would any Army, anywhere in the world brief journalists in advance?
Are these questions being asked of the Indian Army by a few motivated individuals to meet a narrow political agenda of opposition politicians and disgruntled journalists by using the Indian Army as a scapegoat? Why should the Indian Army, acting under instructions of the Government of India, be required to give any evidence or proof of its activities to these people? What permits these people to take liberties to one of the most honest and transparent institutions of our country? What is the message being given to the over one million officers and jawans and the thousands who are joining the Indian Army each year?
These political pundits know that the highly disciplined Indian Army is a soft target, which will not react to these pot shots. Every criticism by these so-called pundits is picked up by channels across the border and used to criticise the Government of India. Nothing is gained except a few ephemeral political points. Far more is lost. Every criticism of the Army Chief demoralises the entire army and critics need to understand this before shooting off their mouths.
Kashmir is a flashpoint and has to be addressed by all political parties and the Indian Army together. If Major Leetul Gogoi ties a known terrorist to the bonnet of his jeep and drives out the people under his command to safety without risking any lives either from his side or from the stone pelters he needs to be supported and applauded and not criticised. If there is any doubt about is actions, only the Army courts can ask him questions. He cannot be subject to a trial by the media because some channels have to fall TRP’s.
The responsible journalists (there are many of them), and not those looking to support their stuttering careers and channels, should start to ignore these comments and not give credence to these critics naysayers. The less importance such comments get in our media the less relevant these individuals will become.
The President of India, the supreme commander of the Indian Army needs to come out strongly in defence of the Army Chief to quell all these nonsensical comments once and for all. He needs to stop all this second-guessing that is going on amongst motivated individuals. If this is freedom of speech, then it must be curtailed immediately. With a difficult neighbour like Pakistan on our west and a restless neighbour like China on our East, we want our Army to be highly motivated and ready. Not demotivated and unsure of what people will say and when about their actions.
As the son of a highly decorated soldier, Late Brig ML Garg, Kirti Chakra and AVSM, who fought in the wars of 1962, 1965 and 1971, it pains me to see this one-sided communication from these politicians and journalists against the Army. I sincerely hope that many more “Army children” will come out in strong support of the incredible institution their fathers worked for.
The Indian Army has always been apolitical and has stayed in the barracks unlike so many armies around the world who chose to come out of the barracks to seek a political role. The Army families live and socialise in a world of their own, away from the challenges of the daily existence of the civilians.
The Indian Army is our protectors who stand guard at our borders as we sleep peacefully. Let us leave them alone.
The author is the founder Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies and the author of 5 best-selling books, Reboot. Reinvent. Rewire: Managing Retirement in the 21st Century; The Corner Office; An Eye for an Eye; The Buck Stops Here - Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur and The Buck Stops Here – My Journey from a Manager to an Entrepreneur.