Monday, August 23, 2010

Denigrating the Armed Forces: A Dangerous Agenda

(Published in Indian Defence Review Sep 2010). Need to subscribe to read the full article: click here
Denigrating the Armed Forces: A Dangerous Agenda
While watching TV on 03 June 2010, viewers were shocked to read breaking news – “Army shamed by sex scandal.” Another channel informed viewers that a serving Lieutenant General had been forced to resign for molesting another officer’s wife while on an official tour to Israel. Every channel tried to outdo each other by sensational headlines. Reputation of the military leadership in general and that of the General Officer concerned was torn to shreds. Most e-papers reproduced the news item released by PTI. The furor got somewhat dampened when the Army Headquarters (AHQ) issued a denial. It said that preliminary investigations had shown that there were a number of loopholes in the account of allegations and that further investigations were in progress. It also clarified that the General Officer had neither resigned nor had been asked to submit his resignation.

It is learnt that the high level Court of Inquiry (C of I) convened by the Army Headquarters has found the allegations to be totally baseless. Apparently, either the concerned PTI correspondent had erred in not confirming the veracity of the report with AHQ or was a willing party to the slander campaign. It is doubtful if he would ever be taken to task for his transgression. Predictably, PTI did not consider it necessary to apologise for its senseless blunder. Similarly, it is unlikely that other over-enthusiastic media players can muster enough moral courage to regret their mistake publically.

Similarly, media coverage of the Sukhna land case is characterised by unrelenting campaign to tarnish the image of the armed forces by targeting its senior officers. Facts of the case were totally and intentionally ignored to justify allegation of gross misappropriation. The case was nonchalantly termed as a scam despite the fact that the land in question was privately owned and did not belong to the Army; no transfer took place and no money ever exchanged hands. The civilian owner wanted a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Army before investing resources in the construction of a school on the said land, lest there be objections subsequently. The total case revolved around an act of indiscretion by a General Officer when he recommended issuance of NOC to the incumbent Corps Commander. Incidentally, no pressure can be exerted by a Military Secretary as Corps Commanders do not report to him.

Not one media personality cared to find out as to what the scam was. The coverage dealt with the case as if it were another fodder scam or Chhattisgarh loot. As most TV channels thrive on sensationalism, speakers from various fields were invited to air their views. Without understanding the real nature of the case, they took stands as per their own prejudices and mindset. A rare sane voice was invariably silenced by an aggressive anchor carrying the mandate to steer discussion as per the channel’s agenda. Objectivity was the inevitable casualty. One self-proclaimed military writer of suspect credentials went to the extent of stating that the accused officers should be publically shot dead. He forgot that Indian governance works purely on recommendations – every political leader and bureaucrat issues numerous letters of recommendations every day. Should they all be shot dead or is the law of the land different for the services?... subscribe to IDR to read full article...
Major General Mrinal Suman, AVSM, VSM, PhD (Retd)

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