Backed by feudal and martial Punjabis, the general presses his case in court.
He pressures the government into extending his term. He clings to office, denying promotion to his brother officers. He puts the army in confrontation with the government and he does so for personal honour. We’re not talking of Pakistan here, incidentally.
India’s army chief General VK Singh wants the Supreme Court to change his official year of birth from 1950 to 1951. This will help him stay as chief for another year. 1950 is the year he himself filled on his service commission form. 1951 is on his school-leaving certificate. He has been promoted on the basis of the earlier date, which he says he filled by mistake when he joined the army. On learning of the problem before he was made general, the defence ministry pressed him three times to accept 1950 as the official date or face action. Three times Gen Singh said he would accept the government’s decision. This was discovered in 2006 and Gen Singh then wrote: “Whatever decision is taken in the organisational interest is acceptable to me.”
On receiving this assurance from the soldier, presumably a man of his word, the government promoted him to full general. Once he got what he wanted, he turned nasty.
The organisational interests have now aligned with the army chief’s personal interests. Gen Singh claims that this is a battle for honour and integrity and not tenure. And yet in court he demands that the government change the date and “grant all consequential reliefs thereto”. What might these reliefs be? The extension of his term.
Granting this will mean that other generals will lose out on the chance to become army chief. The army’s succession pattern will be disturbed.
The former chief minister of Punjab Captain (retd) Amrinder Singh, inheritor of the abolished kingdom of Patiala, has come out in support of Gen Singh. A Congress politician, he is angling for the votes of retired and serving faujis from Punjab, which goes to the polls in the next few weeks. He believes India’s soldiers are all in favour of Gen Singh. The army chief’s supporters make the claim that in this tawdry matter of Gen Singh’s extension, the morale of the army will be affected. Really? Are our jawans so fragile? Will Singh’s serving another ten months restore their fighting spirit? And if their morale is actually being affected, should their boss not put the army’s interests before his own honour? Instead he has sneaked off to court.
Gen Singh is not known for his restraint or his thoughtfulness. This is to be expected from soldiers, but he’s our most senior warrior and should know better than shoot his mouth off.
After Marines killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Gen Singh was asked by journalists if India could carry out such a military operation. “I would like to say that only this that if such a chance comes, then all three arms (of the military) are competent to do this,” he said.
What was the need to say this? It is difficult to understand.
On Anna Hazare’s circus Gen Singh said this was “the power of democracy”. No, it wasn’t. Rousing a mob against parliament is not democratic, it is a challenge to rule of law.
How does such a man become India’s army chief? It is of course because of India’s seniority rule. This is how the bureaucracy is also promoted. While it may have its merits, chief among them being stability, it does mean that often someone less than competent will ascend to the top job.
This isn’t about his date of birth, and Gen Singh knows that. If the government thought he had been lying about it, he would have been court-martialled. For him to say that he is being accused of fudging it is a lie.
It certainly isn’t about his honour and integrity. He will retire as army chief and the perks that go with it. What more honour does a soldier expect from his nation?
If it really was about his personal honour, he should have stepped down and then gone to court instead of recklessly putting his institution through this trauma.
He can still do that.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 22nd, 2012.
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Your rejoinder @Amjaad Cheema suffers from oversimplification. 'Facism' is not a political system, rather it's a belief system extolling traits such as totalitarian,absolutist,unitary etc.Anna Hazare has all of these in quite a good measure.His solutions to present day problems are archaic and utopian.
His apparent popularity owes a lot to the middle-class infatuation with all kinds of quick-fix and 24X7 TV camera.
fascism : a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.
So, tell me if it's Anna who is a fascist or it was the ruling party. Then again, you being Pakistani, I can understand your ignorance of democracy.
@Hindi hain hum: @S. George:
Your responses are excellent examples of comments section contributing more to the quality of discussion and information than the actual ET article itself.
Akar Patel: Anna raising voice against the casual attitude of Law makers is no different from what is happening in US regarding SOPA/PIPA. If Google/wikipedia can black out services (equivalent of strikes) to force congressmen to change their stance, how can a person trying his own method of morally forcing our MPs be wrong?
There is this ivory tower sense in India that democracy is about parliament. It isn't. It is eqally about rule of law and liberty. If a person attracts a large 'mob' (as you say) it doesn't need to stop the parliament from doing what it wishes. But, if MPs aren't swayed by the expression of mobs, they better be prepared for them campaigning against them and loosing their votes.
You are also wrong about VK Singh. He isn't only fighting for his honor. He is also fighting for the honor of the Army. Just because Army is under civilians they shouldn't do absurd things like insisting on a wrong DOB to be accepted by him!!
The right thing for him to do is to force his DOB issue in court, but resign from his post. Alternative could be for Govt. to admit his DOB issue was a mistake, but ask him to resign in interest of the army, forcing him to do so (it is unthinkable he'd want to be terminated by govt.).
@S: "Really, Mahatma Gandhi and Anna Hazare? For your enlightenment, Gandhi agitated against an authoratarian foreign government imposed by overlords from London. " So, if the overlords are "desi", they are immune to authoritarianism and everything that goes with it like corruption including of the moral kind? And ipso facto, no one should raise one's voice because they are our "own", is that it? Gandhi threatened a fast unto death if Pakistan's share of dues were not paid promptly. Why did he do it against the biggest "desi" overlord of them all, his very own lieutenant, Nehru? And pray, since when is rousing the public in a democracy become treasonous? Isn't that the only way we keep honing up an imperfect tool such as a Democracy? Shake yourself up and do some of your own thinking. @GA: "I guess you are a Paki; so democracy is tough for you to understand. " Your "guess" is as wrong as you have been thoroughly brain-washed. Everyone understands Democracy, even Libyans and Egyptians and Tunisians, not to speak Pakistanis. You and Indians like you do not have a monopoly on it. Democracy is not a set of immutable rules which all may understand and practice similarly. For your own enlightenment look at the difference: Hosni Mubarak listened to "mobs" in Tahrir Square; Gaddafi didn't. One of them has already been interned into his grave. Guess who met a violent end? Probably you will again guess wrong!
Who cares about that in Pakistan.
@G. Din: Elementary my dear Din, Gandhi was fighting not against his government; Hazare is. I guess you are a Paki; so democracy is tough for you to understand.
General V K Singh has done the right thing in approaching the Supreme Court. If his perception of truth makes him feel being ill treated, he has the legitimate right to seek justice in the court of law. Seeking justice may require one to do unprecedented things. Bottomline is if he deserves to stay as per his date of birth, he must stay and the government should answer why the date was not corrected before giving him promotion. If, however, the General was indeed born in 1950, he must surely go in what would be a very silly way to leave.
It is an honour to democracy that an all powerful army chief has to approach the court to seek justice against the civil government. No hue and cry either from the people or the government. That is the beauty of Indian democracy. Compare this with Pakistani situation.
Aakar, is there an issue on which you don't support the Gandhi family and the Congress? You left out key details: General VK Singh's birth certificate issued by the Government of India lists 1951 as his birthdate. He made one error when he was 15 years old when he filled out the NDA form. Every other document lists 1951 as his birthdate. Different databases and records of the army have different dates. VK Singh has been petitioning the Ministry of Defence for over 20 years to change the DOB on his records, which bureaucrats have refused to do.
Your article is factually incorrect. General VK Singh was made a general in 2009. In 2006 when the MOD asked him to accept the 1950 date he was still a Major Gen and he refused. Congress party wants him to retire because VK Singh has been outspoken in revealing cost-overruns due to delays and other problems prevalent in defence ministry under the Congress government. He also ordered the court-martial of Lt Gen Avadesh Prakash who was close to defence minister, AK Anthony, for the Sukna land scam. While India has been battered by corruption like the 2G scam, Commonwealth games scam, Adarsh society scam, Mining scam under the Congress government, your spin on Anna Hazare's anti-corruption protests is indicative of your bias.
An excellent eye-opener for our own "sipah-salaars" ! Well done sir !
Atleast he is going to court relating to his retirement issue. Our general staged a coup and suspended the constitution and elected assembly, when he did not agree with his removal and replacement. Indian general is a saint in comparison.
“India’s army chief General VK Singh wants the Supreme Court to change his official year of birth from 1950 to 1951. This will help him stay as chief for another year.” - Mr. Sing already made clear that he will not continue even if he gets extension for one more year. For him it is a matter of honour. He wants to prove that he is not a liar. whats wrong in it? he is using his right as an indian citizen.
“On Anna Hazare’s circus Gen Singh said this was “the power of democracy”. No, it wasn’t. Rousing a mob against parliament is not democratic, it is a challenge to rule of law.” - If an Army general thought so, what is wrong in it? You must appreciate him. About anna hazare Movement – do you need people sit at home when country gets looted (corruption of lakhs of crores of rupee). So what kind of agitation was it? Was it not democratic? Was it not NON VIOLENT? What was the out come of this agitation? At least the central govt. thought of implementing a Lok pal (though it was weak) which they didn’t attempted do in 65 years.
“After Marines killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Gen Singh was asked by journalists if India could carry out such a military operation. “I would like to say that only this that if such a chance comes, then all three arms (of the military) are competent to do this,” he said.” – - So in such circumstances what answer can we expected from any army general. Does he need to runaway from question? And if India has such capabilities why should we hide as long as it will not affect our national security?
Poor Gen Singh. In some other country the PM would have done 'minnat' to accept an extension of term. Year of birth not withstanding.
I firmly believe that Gen Singh is on the right track. He has been flagging this issue all through his military career. And come to think of it only one date can be true. If what the babus hold, is true, let the consequences follow, if not, let the right thing be done.
I don't recall Indian GHQ being attacked ever, if you know what I mean.
Really, Mahatma Gandhi and Anna Hazare? For your enlightenment, Gandhi agitated against an authoratarian foreign government imposed by overlords from London. Hazare's mob rises against a democratically elected government chosen by the people of India by their own free will. Are you really so dumb that you don't see the difference? You have a problem with the government, fight the next election.
Yes Akhtar Patel u r absolutely right. Rousing a mob against parliament is also fascism. I agee with your comments about ANNA also.
Matter of national honor, state security and morale of the troops. Now where have I heard this before? Hmmm
Well not every army chief is as awesome as General Kiyani
Hugely disappointed that it’s not what I thought it was as at our side of the border selfishness knows no bounds.
Not always an admirer of your crap shoot, I must say you are right on the money about every thing you said in this piece,including Anna. Good job.
It is a great thing to see that Indian courts and media can debate even the most personal things like DOB of the army chief. Nice to see a paid govt servant treated like one and not the master. Thanks for the Op Ed.
Oo for a sec I thought ET has started digging its own grave :)
Agree with you on the selfish General. But not your reckless comment on Anna.....
Let the truth about his date of birth prevail.