Row Over Veterans’ Letter To President On Forces Being Used For “Agendas”.

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The letter from 156 veterans to President Ram Nath Kovind referred to the “unusual and completely unacceptable practice of political leaders taking credit for military operations like cross-border strikes…”.

“We have received no such letter,” a Rashtrapati Bhavan source said.

Two former service chiefs named among the 156 “undersigned” in the letter, today denied having signed the letter.

Among the veterans whose names have appeared in the letter are three former Army chiefs – General (retired) SF Rodrigues, General (retired) Shankar Roy Chowdhury and General (retired) Deepak Kapoor, four former Navy chiefs and former Air Force chief NC Suri.

“I wrote that armed forces are apolitical and support the politically elected government. And no, my consent has not been taken for any such letter. I don’t agree with whatever has been written in that letter. We have been misquoted,” Air Chief Marshal (retired) NC Suri told ANI.

“We in the services have always done what the government in power ordered us. We are an instrument of the state. We are apolitical. Anyone can say anything and then sell it as fake news. I don’t know who this gentleman is who wrote this,”  General (retired) Rodrigues told news agency ANI.

“…we write to bring to your attention, as the Supreme Commander of India’s Armed Forces, some concerns which have caused considerable alarm and disquiet among both the serving and the retired personnel of our Forces,” the alleged letter reads.

The alleged letter mentions Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath referring to the armed forces as “Modiji ki Sena“, or “Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s army” at an election rally in Uttar Pradesh recently. The Chief Minister was reprimanded by the Election Commission for the statements.

The letter also refers to photos of “election platforms and campaigns where party workers are seen wearing military uniforms and posters and images with pictures of soldiers, especially Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman”. Pilot Varthaman was held captive for three days by Pakistan after his plane was shot down in an air duel between the two countries on February 27.

In March, Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari provoked controversy for attending a party rally in military fatigues. Actor-turned-politician Urmila Matondkar of the Congress came under fire recently for using Abhinandan Varthaman’s photo during a roadside campaign in Mumbai.

Reprimands by the Election Commission “do not appear to have resulted in any substantive change of behavior and practice on the ground,” the retired generals say, fearing a rise in such instances during polls.In March, Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari provoked controversy for attending a party rally in military fatigues. Actor-turned-politician UrReprimands by the Election Commission “do not appear to have resulted in any substantive change of behavior and practice on the ground,” the retired generals say, fearing a rise in such instances during polls.

The letter appeals to the President to ensure that the secular and apolitical character of the armed forces is preserved and to urgently “direct all political parties to stop using the army, military uniforms or symbols or military operations” for politics.

Major General (retired) Harsha Kakkar, who too is on the list, said he gave his consent to the letter. “I had given my consent for being a signatory to the letter. I had given my consent only after knowing the contents of it,” he said.

“We are totally apolitical. We are answerable to the government of the day, whoever it may be… We don’t want to impact defence forces. This letter is not to the defence forces. This letter is to the political head of the country, our commander-in-chief and to all the political parties,” General (retired) Shankar Roy Chowdhury told NDTV.

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