Added on : 2019-04-12 15:05:57
Controversy over a letter to the President by veterans on politicisation of the Armed Forces took another turn after two signatories denied signing it. Earlier, sources said the President had received no such letter by the veterans.
The President's office has denied receiving a letter from over 150 veterans expressing "alarm and disquiet" at the armed forces being used for "political purposes", official said.
Two former service chiefs named among the 156 "undersigned" in the letter, today denied having signed the letter. Among the veterans whose names have appeared in 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.
"Don’t know what it (letter) is all about. All my life, we have been apolitical. After 42 years as an officer, it's a little late to change. Always put India first. Don’t know who these people are, but this is a classic manifestation of fake news," said General SF Rodrigues (retired).
"I wrote that armed forces are apolitical and support the politically elected government. 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," Air Chief Marshal (retired) NC Suri said.
Major General (retired) Harsha Kakkar, who too is on the list, said he gave his consent to the letter. "I had given my consent for being a signatory to the letter. I had given my consent only after knowing the contents of it," he said.
"We are totally apolitical. We are answerable to the government of the day, whoever it may be... We don't want to impact defence forces. This letter is not to the defence forces. This letter is to the political head of the country, our commander-in-chief and to all the political parties," General (retired) Shankar Roy Chowdhury said.
On Thursday, over 150 armed forces veterans – including three former army chiefs, four former navy chiefs and a former air force chief – wrote to the President and Commander-in-Chief to complain about the manner in which political parties have been repeatedly using armed forces for political gains ahead of the Lok Sabha election. The letter appeals to the President to ensure that the secular and apolitical character of the armed forces is preserved and to urgently "direct all political parties to stop using the army, military uniforms or symbols or military operations" for politics.
The letter had raised an objection to Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath referring to the Armed Forces as 'Modiji ki sena'. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also asked first-time voters to dedicate their votes to soldiers who carried out the airstrike in Balakot. The letter also expressed veterans’ disappointment on party workers wearing military uniforms, posters and images with pictures of soldiers, including IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman.
"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,", letter.
"We respectfully urge you [President] 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," the letter added.