Stop misuse of military for political gains: Over 150 veterans writes to President

NEW DELHI: A group of retired officers of the Army and other military veterans have complained to President Ram Nath Kovind against political leaders to stop using the services to further their political agenda.

The 156 signatories include eight former service chiefs – General Sunith Francis Rodrigues, Shankar Roy Chowdhury Deepak Kapoor, Admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas, Vishnu Bhagwat, Arun Prakash, Suresh Mehta and Air Chief Marshal NC Suri.

In a letter written on Thursday, they urged the 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”.

They said that “some concerns have caused considerable alarm and disquiet among both the serving and the retired personnel of the forces”.

They have also objected to the use of pictures of Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman — who was captured by Pakistan and then released — in posters along with the image of soldiers in election hoardings and campaign.

Addressing a public rally in Ghaziabad on April 1, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath had referred to the Indian Army as “Modi ji ki sena” while drawing a comparison between the steps taken by the BJP-led central government against terrorism and the previous Congress government.

“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 ‘Modiji ki Sena’.

In the letter, they said: “We do appreciate that complaints by some senior retired personnel, including a written submission from a former Chief of the Naval Staff to the Chief Election Commissioner, have elicited a prompt response.

“Indeed a notification has been issued asking for an explanation from those responsible for these statements, including from the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. However, we regret to state that these do not appear to have resulted in any substantive change of behaviour and practice on the ground.”

It said that the misuse the armed forces “would impinge adversely on the morale and fighting efficiency of the serving man or woman in uniform”.

“We therefore appeal to you to ensure that the secular and a-political character of our Armed Forces is preserved,” the veterans appealed to the President.

They have also sent a copy of the letter to the Chief Election Commissioner for necessary action.

Top BJP leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah have been citing the Balakot operation and the 2016 surgical strikes in their election rallies to underline the NDA government’s ability to take tough decisions on national security.

With agencies inputs