12 April 2019
New Delhi: Over 150 army veterans including right service chiefs wrote to the President of India and Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces Ram Nath Kovind to take necessary steps to prevent political parties from using the military, military uniforms or symbols, and any actions by military formations or personnel, for political purposes or to further political agendas.
The letter has been signed by Armed Forces Veterans who have served in the defence of the nation in various appointments, in peacetime and in operational and war zones over the past several decades.
The letter states (briefly), "The apolitical and secular nature of India’s Armed Forces has been an article of faith for every soldier, sailor and airman. 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.
Since, those in active service cannot speak out, even on matters which might affect their interests adversely, we veterans are in touch with our own military fraternity and have a ‘finger on the pulse’.
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”.
This is in addition to media pictures of election platforms and campaigns in which party workers are seen wearing military uniforms; and posters and images with pictures of soldiers and especially of Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, displayed.
With the General elections round the corner, and 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.
We believe that you will surely agree that any such misuse of the Armed Forces established under the Constitution of India and therefore we appeal to you to ensure that the secular and a-political character of our Armed Forces is preserved."
The letter has also been copied to the Chief Election Commissioner of the Election Commission of India for information and action.
The veterans among the signatories included Generals S.F. Rodrigues, Shankar Roy Chowdhury, Deepak Kapoor; Admirals Laxminarayan Ramdas, Vishnu Bhagwat, Arun Prakash, Sureesh Mehta; and Air Chief Marshal N.C. Suri.
However, later in the day, SF Rodrigues and NC Suri claimed that they never signed the letter. Besides, the President's office also said that they have not received any such letter.