Some well-entrenched vested interests are out to destroy the institutional integrity of the Army. Unfortunately, it appears that sections of the UPA Government are in collusion with these elements, The attacks on VK Singh are an indication of that
A major controversy has broken out over a leaked report in The Indian Express which, quoting a secret Army finding, has said that the former Army chief, General VK Singh, had set up the Technical Support Division — a secret intelligence unit — and misused funds to try and topple the Omar Abdullah Government in Jammu & Kashmir. The report also claimed that he had used the money to try and change the line of succession in the Army’s top brass.
This has led to a political slugfest between the Congress and BJP, with the latter questioning the timing of the report and alleging that the General was being ‘hounded’ for sharing the platform with its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi at a recent rally of ex-servicemen in Haryana. The Congress has strongly refuted the charge and Union Minister for Information & Broadcasting Manish Tewari went rhetoric: “Nothing can be more baseless and laughable than this allegation. The UPA Government never engages in politics on the sensitive issue of security... In such sensitive matters, the Government has a responsibility to discharge its duty, which it will do with full responsibility.”
The report was prepared by Director-General (Military Operations), Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia, as part of a Board of Officers inquiry formed by Army Chief General Bikram Singh to review the functioning of the top-secret unit set up during the tenure of his predecessor. The report, submitted to the Union Ministry of Defence in March this year, is learnt to have recommended a CBI probe. Being a ‘top secret’ document, this report has no business to be in the public domain.
Gen VK Singh sees a ‘nexus between arms dealers and those behind the leaking of the report’. He has dubbed the allegations against him ‘laughable and most absurd’, particularly the ‘attempt to topple’ the Jammu & Kashmir regime. He went on to say: “The reports on the whole issue are motivated and there are a number of reasons behind them, including my sharing the dais with BJP leader Narendra Modi. After the Government decided to close the issue by sending it to the National Security Adviser, it was leaked by a Joint Secretary of the Defence Ministry, who has since moved out from there.” Incidentally, this Joint Secretary has worked very closely with the Defence Secretary-turned-CAG.
This was followed by television and Press interviews and stories going into great details on the working of the TSD. Little has anyone realised that the TSD is a covert operation agency, activities of which are directly related to the safety of the soldiers fighting on the borders, retribution on the enemy and the security of the citizens. By its very nature, the TSD operation was ‘top secret’. In that event, even the existence of the TSD should never have been publicised.
Further, if there is exposure of the actual working of the top-secret unit, leaking information about it could be seditious, regardless of whether the information is true or false. Even the knowledge of the existence of the TSD can help the nation’s enemies and subvert the interests of the country.
Assuming there was some irregularity in the functioning of the TSD, it should have been discussed and resolved within. Putting it out in the open and making it an object of derisive public debate severely compromises and demoralises the Armed Forces. This also makes India a laughing stock in the world’s eyes. Those who have leaked the report and their collaborators are guilty of treason, and the consequences could be serious.
Such treason was indulged in not just because Gen Singh was seen sharing the dais with Narendra Modi. There was something more sinister — diverting media and public attention from the scandalous decision directing the Nuclear Power Corporation of India to buy 6x1000 MW reactors costing Rs 90,000 crore for the Mithivirdi (Gujarat) Nuclear Power Project from US multinational Westinghouse Electric Company, by waiving a key provision of India’s civil nuclear liability law that would hold the US company liable in the event of an accident caused by faulty or defective equipment. This could expose the Indian public to death and destruction without adequate compensation at hand.
On September 18, television news channel Times Now got hold of the ‘strictly confidential’ note for the Cabinet Committee on Security, written by Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy, proposing that though the viability/technical analysis of the project has not been done, ‘agreement-to-buy’ should be signed, by skirting the Atomic Energy Commission. This was prior to Prime Minister’s meeting with the US President on September 27. Doing so would open up the floodgate of imported nuclear deals running up to several lakh crore rupees from the US, France and Russia ,without any supplier liability. Dollar kickbacks could be mind-boggling!
On September 19, The Hindu newspaper carried the story on its front page and Times Now went live with the ‘breaking news’ on the humongous scandal and betrayal. By the following day, it would have gone viral, ripping apart India’s ‘nuclear prostration’. Nuclear kleptocrats panicked, because this could expose the non-starting of Russia’s Kudankulam nuclear power plant, reportedly built with sub-standard materials due to the absence of a clause on supplier liability in the agreement.
So, early September 20 morning, the defence-nuclear combine struck, with a national daily publishing the concocted story: “Unit set up by VK Singh used secret funds to try and topple J&K govt, block Bikram Singh: Army probe”. Cleverly orchestrated by spin doctors, this nonsense went viral, blocking out the truth behind the ‘nuclear prostration’.
Be that as it may, it looks as if some well-entrenched vested interests are out to destroy the institutional integrity of the Army and sections of the Government appear to be in collusion with these element. The way the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister have totally ignored the letter written by now-retired Admiral L Ramdas — one of the country’s eminent Navy chiefs — on June 19, 2012, which raises serious military and national security issues seeking a high-level inquiry and remedial action, we cannot expect much action.
The letter includes allegations of bribes offered to serving Army officers; corruption in the purchase of defence equipment — namely the Tatra truck deal and direct threat from the CMD of Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd, himself under the CBI scanner, to the then Army chief who exposed the corruption; leakage of a ‘top secret’ letter from the Army chief to the Prime Minister regarding defence unpreparedness; perpetuating an obnoxious line of succession in the Army; suggestion that the Army chief was spying on the Defence Minister’s office — and worst of all, accusing him of plotting a coup to over-throw the Government of India!
(The writer is a former IAS officer, a former Army officer and now an activist)
Today, in a letter to the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT), the ACLU and United Sikhs called on state officials to investigate the harassment of a Sikh commercial truck driver pulled over early this year for a flat tire. After detaining Mr. Jageet Singh in January as he passed through Mississippi, the officers called him a "terrorist" and harassed and humiliated him because of his appearance and religious beliefs. As a devout Sikh, Mr. Singh wears a turban and carries a kirpan. A kirpan is a small, spiritual sword that is sheathed and sewn to the waistband. It is designed and worn as an article of faith, much as a cross is worn by devout Christians.
Contending, wrongly, that his kirpan was illegal, the officers demanded that Mr. Singh remove it. When Mr. Singh explained that he was a Sikh and that the kirpan was a sacred religious article, the officers laughed at him and mocked his religious beliefs. One officer declared that all Sikhs are "depraved" and "terrorists." They continued to taunt him, and forced Mr. Singh to circle his truck with his hands on his turban while they searched the vehicle. Finally, not content with this humiliation, they arrested him, claiming that Mr. Singh had refused to obey an officer's lawful command.
Mr. Singh's ordeal did not end with the MDOT. When he returned to Mississippi on March 26, 2013, for his court date at the Pike County Justice Court, he once again suffered humiliation, harassment, and discrimination because of his religious beliefs. Waiting for his attorney in the back of the courtroom, he was stunned when four Highway Patrol officers approached him and ordered him to leave the courtroom. The officers stated that Judge Aubrey Rimes had ordered them to eject Mr. Singh from the courtroom because he did not like Mr. Singh's turban. Moreover, they told Mr. Singh that Judge Rimes would punish him if he failed to remove his headdress.
When Mr. Singh's attorney went to Judge Rimes's chambers to inquire about the matter, he readily confirmed that he had expelled Mr. Singh from the courtroom because of his turban. He further stated that Mr. Singh would not be allowed to re-enter the courtroom unless he removed "that rag" from his head and threatened to call Mr. Singh last on the docket if he continued to wear the religious headdress.
As an observant Sikh, Mr. Singh wears a turban at all times as a reminder and public declaration of his connection to God. For him, the turban is an inseparable part of his Sikh religious identity: Like all Sikhs, Mr. Singh believes that a man cannot be considered a Sikh if he does not wear the turban and that unwrapping his turban and exposing his "naked" head in public is sacrilegious and shameful.
Mr. Singh respectfully declined to remove his turban. As threatened, Judge Rimes forced Mr. Singh and his attorney to wait for several hours until every other litigant had been heard before allowing him into the courtroom.
The Pike County Board of Supervisors recently recognized that Judge Rimes's harassment of Mr. Singh was unacceptable. In response to an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the Board revised the County's harassment and non-discrimination policy to explain that religious discrimination includes "requiring an individual to remove a head covering or denying that individual access to a County office, building, program or activity because they are wearing a head covering, if that head covering is worn for religious reasons."
But Judge Rimes should not have needed a DOJ investigation or county policy to know that his conduct was impertinent and inappropriate. Our justice system is founded on the principle that every person entering a courthouse is equal before the law and is entitled to respect. Judge Rimes's treatment of Mr. Singh – in particular his use of the slur "rag" and his effort to intimidate and embarrass Mr. Singh because of his minority faith – flouted his responsibility under the Mississippi Judicial Code of Conduct to uphold the dignity of the judiciary.
The ACLU and United Sikhs also plan to file a complaint with the Mississippi Judicial Commission, asking officials to investigate Judge Rimes's conduct and impose appropriate sanctions.
The letter sent today to MDOT officials demands that they provide public documents relating to Mr. Singh's detainment and arrest and urges them to implement an ongoing training program to educate officers about their responsibility to treat every person with dignity and to remain respectful of religious diversity.
Narendra Modi today blew the Ananta Vijaya, conch shell of Prince Yudhisthira, to announce his march on Delhi as future ruler, though he promised, with Caesar-like modesty, that he would not be king (main nath nahin hoon, das hoon). Castigating the Prime Minister for weakness in projecting India’s power and dignity abroad, the Congress’ anointed heir for upstart behaviour vis-á-vis the Head of Government, and Indian journalists for pusillanimity before the Pakistan Prime Minister whilst part of the Prime Ministerial delegation to New York, the Gujarat Chief Minister made it clear that nationalism would be non-negotiable under his reign.
At a mammoth, five plus lakh strong, rally organised by the Delhi unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party to launch the party’s campaign for the Assembly election in November, Modi mostly skirted Delhi-centric issues and reserved his fire for the Gandhi family and the political culture it represents. He displayed canny constitutional propriety by supporting the beleaguered Prime Minister against attacks on his person and office, while berating him for weakness.
The Prime Minister recently met the US President in Washington, but instead of showcasing India as a youthful nation and ancient civilisation, he told Barack Obama that India is a poor country. He sounded like film-makers who market India’s poverty abroad and collect awards. Was the Prime Minister talking about poverty which Rahul Gandhi called a “state of mind” or the real poverty of our back lanes, Modi asked.
Claiming the nation fears the outcome of Manmohan Singh’s meeting with the Pakistan Prime Minister, Modi said he was hurt when Nawaz Sharif called Indian and Pakistani journalists for breakfast and called the Indian Prime Minister a “dehati aurat” (village woman) for complaining about terrorism from Pakistani soil (which on September 26 took 12 Indian lives in two incidents at Kathua and Samba in Jammu & Kashmir). India, he thundered, will not tolerate this insult to the nation and the Prime Minister, “whatever our internal differences may be”. Nawaz Sharif could have the temerity to speak like this about Manmohan Singh, who is senior to him even in age, because the Congress vice-president has, in village parlance, “Pradhan Mantri ki pagdi uchaal di hai” (insulted him) and that is a sin (paap).
Modi challenged Indian mediapersons present to explain why they did not walk out when the Prime Minister was thus insulted. A possible reason could be that the Indian media, which the Vajpayee Government hosted at Agra, snuggled up to then President Parvez Musharraf when he made equally outrageous comments about Jammu & Kashmir. Modi has signalled an end to tolerance of such malfeasance by the media.
The BJP’s prime ministerial hopeful said the Indian people sincerely hope Manmohan Singh will show Nawaz Sharif his place and ask when Pakistan-occupied Kashmir will be returned to India, talk about terrorism and the constant killing of our jawans, and particularly try to bring back the severed head of our jawan whose mother and widow are still weeping.
The great dilemma before the nation today is between parivar shahi and lok shahi; the battle is to decide if India will run according to the Constitution (samvidhan) or the whim of the shehzade (Rahul Gandhi). Can the UPA allies answer this question – whom would they like to work under? Modi reminded his audience that when the Supreme Court decision on debarring convicted leaders came, the BJP supported it and made its stand clear at the all party meeting and in the meeting with the President. Disapproving of the manner in which Rahul Gandhi junked his own party-led Government’s Ordinance to save convicted legislators, the Gujarat strongman said that in both the Delhi and the 2014 general elections, it was time to get rid of the Dirty Team and bring in the Dream Team.
If one were to search for the signature theme of Narendra Modi’s Operation Red Fort, it would be “mujhe vishwas hai” (I have confidence), a far cry from the inane mumblings of a leader who thought India was nothing and had to be made something — “humme Bharat ko banana hai” (we have to make India this or that). In less than a decade, he pointed out, India will celebrate 75 years of freedom (Amrut Mahotsav) and we must decide what heights we want to scale by then. The UPA, he charged, has no vision at all, and every successive Budget has hovered around sensex up or down, income tax up or down, import relief, with no grand picture.
Armed as always with statistics to prove his points, Modi said the UPA brags only about achievements made by State Governments, but its own performance is dismal. The Railways in 1980 had 61,000 km tracks and 31 years later only 3,000 km of lines have been added, whereas China in the same period added 11,000 km of railway tracks from a baseline 50,000 km and their speed and quality equals Japan.
The UPA in an affidavit before the Supreme Court admitted that the NDA in six years added 24,000 km of roads to the national highways but UPA in nine years has added only 16000 km. The Aviation sector in the past seven years has seen unprecedented corruption, losses of Rs 53,000 crore and a debt of Rs 1 lakh crore; but it gave a package of Rs 30,000 crore to the private airlines. Delhi is starved for power and stations that can generate 20,000 MW are ready but non-functional because the regime has failed to allot gas and coal and set up transmission lines, because without money no file is signed.
Striking a personal note, Narendra Modi said it is India’s greatness that a boy who used to sell tea in train cabins to make ends meet has today been elevated by the people to this stage. As the crowds went hysterical, he said, “I never dreamt to be a ruler, I am a sevak”. He exhorted them to “see my past and see my work” and “trust my promise that neither Narendra Modi nor the BJP will ever destroy your trust, let you down; we will live for your dreams, that is our mission”.
He lambasted the dysfunctional regimes in Delhi where the Chief Minister accepts no responsibility for anything that goes wrong, including the safety of young girls, and New Delhi which is paralysed between the Government and the Mother-Son rule. The UPA is drowning in corruption, but remains addicted to “Gandhi-chaap”, the high denomination notes which are being collected in the tonnes. The nation, he concluded, is yearning for Su-raaj, good governance.
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