Politicisation of Indian armed forces

Persecution of Muslims goes on unchecked

There are a host of events that reflect that the evils of politicization and sycophancy have percolated deeply into the Indian armed forces. India’s prime minister Narendra Modi is convinced that his macho image (36-inch chest, surgical strikes, gung-ho anti-Pakistan rants, and so on) catapulted the BJP to electoral wins.

After Pulwama, he announced having given a “free hand” to his armed forces for retaliation against nuclear Pakistan. The sycophantic military officers adopted a policy of preferring extremist Hindu military officers over those with a moderate turn of mind.

Modi began to ebulliently participate in military functions to celebrate Republic Day, the so-called Kargil Victory and similar other functions. Professional and moderate army officers began to be ignored in promotions and transfers. The Indian Army began to be used as a political tool to suppress opponents and impose the BJP and RSS Hindutva agenda in all realms of life.

Gen Bipen Rawat, who died in a helicopter crash, was controversially promoted as Indian army chief and later as the first chief of defence staff. Four retired military officers with marked anti-Pakistan mindset were appointed as Governors and Lieutenant Governors of Indian states and Union Territories. . They included Lt Gen (retd) Kaiwalya Trivikram Parnaik as Governor of Arunachal Pradesh; Adm Devendra Kumar Joshi as Lieutenant Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands; former DCOAS Lt Gen Gurmit Singh as Governor of Uttarakhand, and Brigadier B D Mishra (retired) as Lieutenant Governor of Ladakh.

The favouritism was extended to civilians also. BJP protégé Justice (retired) S Abdul Nazeer was elevated to the Supreme Court, where he was one of the judges who delivered the 2019 Ayodhya verdict. After his retirement in January, he was appointed Governor of Andhra Pradesh.

There is muffled resentment in armed forces about favouritism towards pro-BJP officers. Even a former navy chief had to say “Evil of Sycophancy” will undermine India’s military’.

An acerbic debate erupted in recent days in the print and online media “concerning not only mediocre officers manning the services higher command structure, but also the burgeoning military-politician nexus that guarantees reciprocal benefit”.

The political influence has marred discipline in armed forces. An increasing number of armed forces personnel have been “charged and convicted of corruption, illegally off-loading subsidised canteen goods, especially liquor, on the black market.”

Senior ranks lobbying politicians for promotions and employment after retirement have steadily proliferated in recent years Civil courts and military tribunals are flooded with promotion-related cases.

A|rmy officers once did not sheepishly follow politicians’ unreasonable orders. Gen Sam Manekshaw, India’s army chief between 1969 and early 1973.was asked by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to invade the erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in early 1971 . Manekshaw refused her order. He pointed out that East Pakistan was as large as France. The monsoon would flood East Pakistani rivers. He suggested it would take at least 10 months before the country’s forces could become combat-ready. He also pointed out China could intervene.  He stressed that “it would be unwise to rely on diplomatic assurances’ to the contrary. He proposed that India wait for the winter snow to block the northern passes to obviate Peking’s involvement. The hiatus would also give the Indian forces time to prepare for war.”

Indira Gandhi listened; and Bangladesh came into being in December 1971”.

A report by Human Rights Watch asserted that Modi’s administration was complicit in the massacres. “The attacks were planned in advance,” a senior researcher for the organisation said, “and organised with the extensive participation of the police and state government officials.” Modi never apologised for his gov­ernment’s failure to protect the minority. In a rare comment on the subject, he said he regretted the Muslims’ suffering as he would a “puppy being run over by a car”.

Indian armed forces lost its professional competence due to the Third Pay Commission in 1973.  The commission diluted officer ranks to enhance career prospects. Periodic cadre reviews thereafter, further led to a lopsided rank structure, creating a situation where lieutenant generals, and their equivalents in the navy and air force, began discharging duties previously performed by middle ranking colonels and half-colonels r equivalent.

Adm Arun Prakash, a former Indian Navy chief, lamented obsequiousness and servility within the services, especially the Army. He declared that “we all know that age, rank and financial status demand much more deference in India than anywhere else in the world”.

Prakash admitted that many fine officers did not get promoted for either their ‘non-conformity or forthright views’ or both. He went on to add that the ‘evil of sycophancy will undermine the roots of India’s military’ unless the senior leadership curbs it ruthlessly.

Many senior service personnel are increasingly identifying themselves with the Hindu nationalist BJP-led administration that in turn seeks to exploit military achievements for political gain.

After the BJP ascendancy since 2014, “political expediency” has been factored into several of their tactical operational plans and wider strategic decisions. This symbiotic relationship has suited both.

BJP politicians successfully exploited what passed for military gains on the election campaign trail, to project the BJP’s ‘robust’ handling of national security issues.

This is best illustrated by the September 2016 so-called ‘surgical strikes’ against militant launch pads across the LoC in Kashmir and the IAFs reported bombing of an Islamic terrorist training centre at Balakot in February 2019.

The BJP benefitedfrom the hype spun around the “mythical” success of the “surgical strikes” in the 2016 UP elections and the 2019 general elections.

To glorify Hindu icons, the BJP renamed many Moghal monuments. India’s Mughalsarai railway station, near Varanasi, was renamed Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, for a right-wing Hindu leader who died there in 1968.

Allahabad was renamed Prayagraj, a word that links the Hindu pilgrimage site there. The name Allahabad dated to the 16th century is a legacy of the Mughal Emperor Akbar.

Maharashtra state renamed Bombay as Mumbai, a nod to the city’s patron goddess Mumbadevi.: Madras became Chennai; Calcutta, Kolkata; and Bangalore, Bengaluru.

Yogi Adityanath, UP CM, is in the forefront spearheading the demand to rename Hyderabad as Bhgyanagar (after the Bhagya Laxmi temple). The ruling BJP wants Taj Mahal to be renamed as Tajo Mahalya (temple)

Renaming of roads, schools, colleges and other institutions is most pronounced in occupied Kashmir. Government colleges are now named after soldiers killed in action. One wonders whether this gimmick would reduce suicides by personnel posted in the occupied state.

You cannot walk across Srinagar without being reminded by renamed roads of the Dogra princes. After being stripped of statehood, buildings (a hospital, a cricket stadium and a conference centre) bearing Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s name have been renamed, for instance, with Maharana Pratap Singh (Park) and Amar Singh (College).

The occupied state’s flag has been replaced with India’s national flag on government buildings, and India’s Independence Day functions have been made compulsory in schools. Over76 schools and other buildings have been renamed, mostly in Jammu division, and 25 in the valley. An auditorium run by the information department in Srinagar has been renamed after Raj Begum. A government degree college in Srinagar has been named after the Kashmiri playwright, Moti Lal Kemmu.

Fanaticism of political leaders is understandable. But Hindutva influence in armed forces and judiciary is alarming. So it is particularly in view of aHindu religious assembly’s call for Muslim genocide.

In 2002, the year after Modi became Gujarat CM, over 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed and about 200,000 more displaced in anti-Muslim riots. Large numbers of girls were raped; men cut to pieces and burned alive with kerosene or burning tyres. Pregnant women had their wombs slit open and the foetuses smashed in front of their eyes.

A report by Human Rights Watch asserted that Modi’s administration was complicit in the massacres. “The attacks were planned in advance,” a senior researcher for the organisation said, “and organised with the extensive participation of the police and state government officials.”

Modi never apologised for his gov­ernment’s failure to protect the minority. In a rare comment on the subject, he said he regretted the Muslims’ suffering as he would a “puppy being run over by a car”.

Arundhati Roy wrote “The practice of bulldozing Muslim homes and businesses for purely punitive reasons is proof that India is ‘transitioning pretty brazenly into a criminal Hindu fascist enterprise.”

The Indian Supreme Court held that a mosque was inessential for Muslim worship. Those offering prayers indoors were dragged out and FIRs registered against them. Thousands of mosque-loudspeakers were confiscated. Even licensed speakers were forced to maintain minimum volume. Yogi Adityanath stopped funding perimeter walls of Muslim graveyards. “In a video which surfaced in 2014, Adityanath reportedly stated that: ‘If Muslims take one  Hindu girl [love Jihad] we’ll take 100 Muslim girls. If they kill one Hindu, we’ll kill 100 Muslims’’. “We are submerged in a pool of fear’, a Muslim woman from Uttar Pradesh says”. To escape persecution, Muslims take refuge in Muslim munch, a branch of Rashtra Swayemsevak Sangh (whose ideologues called Muslims hissing snakes).

Amjed Jaaved
Amjed Jaaved
The writer is a freelance journalist, has served in the Pakistan government for 39 years and holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law. He can be reached at [email protected]

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