Indian Border Security Force personnel dance as they celebrate Republic Day at the India-Pakistan Wagah border post. PHOTO: AFP

Instead of playing political games, BJP should keep the Indian army in its own democratic boundary

If the romance between the ruling government and army continues, the Indian army will soon lose all its credibility.

Deepti Verma May 31, 2017
Civil supremacy over the military, a necessary adjunct of the parliamentary form of government, stands firmly established in India, making the army a political neutral institution of the state. Over the decades, the Indian army has played a crucial role in preserving the democracy of India – first by serving the nation with professionalism, and second by keeping itself away from politics.

However, off late, post the Narendra Modi government at the centre, there is angst that the military is being politicised. The infatuation between the government and the army is quite evident.

The government, time and again, has been advertising cross border operations and using the name of the ‘Indian army’ for electoral and political gains.

While the army previously opposed such advertisements, it is interesting to notice that these days, it doesn’t.

Moreover, the recent comments that suit the ruling party’s hard-line attitude by the Army Chief General Bipin Rawat (handpicked by Modi by superseding two deserving officers) on the Kashmir issue further sabotages the credibility of the army and even raises doubts over the army’s apolitical nature.

When the opposition expressed their displeasure, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley backed the army by stating,
“Military solutions are to be provided by military officers, not through comments of politicians. How a situation is to be dealt with when you are in a war-like zone, we should allow our army officers to take a decision. They don’t have to consult Members of Parliament (MP) as to what they should do under these circumstances.”

In a democracy like India, the army gets orders from the polity either directly or through the bureaucracy. Besides, for every action, the army is accountable to the parliament. But here, the ruling government and its ministers seem to increase the tutelage of the Indian army at the cost of the Indian sovereignty.

It wasn’t surprising then when the Communist Party of India’s (CPI) Kerala secretary, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, commented the following after Jaitley expressed that the army should have the power to take free hand decisions on war-like situations:
“They (army) can do anything to anybody. If they see more than four people standing together, they can shoot them…They can take any woman and rape her, nobody has the right to question them. This is the state wherever the army is.”

This is not the first time that the leaders of the CPI are pointing fingers at the army. Earlier, in 2016, Kanhaiya Kumar, the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union president, too stroked a controversy by claiming that some Indian army soldiers rape women in Kashmir. Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA), Polit Bureau member, and editor of Liberation, a monthly publication of CPI-ML (Marxist–Leninist), too joined the bandwagon:

No wonder, the Kunan Poshpora incident and the incidents in Manipur still haunt the Indian army. If the romance between the ruling government and the army continues, the Indian army will soon lose all its credibility from the masses as well.

Last month, when Delhi University’s website was hacked, a message against the armed forces splashed across the webpage. The site exhibited messages against the army charging them of ‘rape’ and ‘killings’ in Kashmir. The hackers, who identified themselves as “PHC”, posted messages like “Pakistan Zindabad” and “#Security is just an illusion” on the site. “Stuck by PHC” was the punch line at the top of the hacked page.

The hacked web pages stated,
“Do you know what your so-called heroes are doing in Kashmir? Do you know they are killing so many innocent people in Kashmir? Do you know they have raped many girls? Do you know they still are raping girls in Kashmir? How would you feel if your brother, sister, father and mother gets killed? How would you feel if someone rapes your mother or sister? Won’t your life and your families be destroyed?”

This is the reason why instead of playing political games along with the defence services, our government should keep the army in its own democratic boundary. After all, the army is supposed to show unquestionable devotion to the state, and not to the ruling government or its opposition.

The centre is forgetting that if it gives the army the power to be involved in politics, it will definitely limit the power of sovereignty, which will, without a doubt, disturb India’s democratic fabric.

Hence, it is high time both the centre and the Indian army keep the defence services completely apolitical, otherwise the repercussion like a slow poison can change the course of the Indian democracy.
Deepti Verma
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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