As a person who grew up dreaming of joining the army, I was shocked to hear the news of you approaching the Supreme Court on the issue of your age.
The military has been a part of my life; my father served in the army and the schools I attended the most were surrounded by the aura of uniformed personnel. Even though I could not become an army officer, I looked upon it as THE way of life.
Like a young child that believes its English teacher is right more than its English-professor father, I pin my faith in you in your battle with the government. However, as even reality is only relative, I write you this letter.
I don’t understand why your official date of birth — you say it should be 1951, while the government says it is recorded as 1950 — is being discussed now in the twilight of your term as chief of the army. For, the issue was cleared when you were promoted as a commander in 2008.
Even the news reports that seem to support your case say that in 2008, when the discrepancy was raised and you were told to accept 1950 as your DoB, you — maybe under duress — said “whatever decision is taken in organisational interest is acceptable to me”. Other reports say you accepted 1950 as the DoB.
In either case, didn’t the issue end at that point? Unless you think that what was in the organisational interest then is not so anymore.
Since generals are the face of the 1.1 million-strong force and show the way for the soldiers, my doubt is why such a senior officer would — whatever the pressures be — give a vague reply about organisational interest when the issue at hand was a very personal one. Or why even under duress accept a wrong DoB.
Once you accepted a lie for a personal benefit, what example were you setting?
It’s easy to blame the civilian government, but why was the issue not resolved in 2006 when it was still an internal issue for the army? What happened to your honour then? Certainly no one would have hung a dagger over your head and forced you to accept the wrong DoB.
Dear Sir, your answer would have an effect on the minds of lakhs of youngsters who want to join the forces. To say that your colleagues and seniors wronged you is like telling the young to stay away from the army because it has no honour. Worse, it would send the message that anyone can go on to head the army by compromising on his ‘honour and integrity’ at an earlier stage in the career. Else, shouldn’t you have refused to budge under pressure at that stage and set an example for the entire military? Couldn’t you have refused to accept the promotion till the truth prevailed? Or gone to court then itself?
An outsider like me does not have to remind you of the armed forces tribunal. Wouldn’t approaching the tribunal have been better than fighting it out with the civilian government?
Most importantly, I don’t understand what the issue has to do with honour — your or the army’s. It’s just a case of a discrepancy in your personal data records, not even about your career achievements.
Sir, we have always been mesmerised by the words: “The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first always and every time. The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next. Your own ease, comfort and safety come last always and every time.” But as the controversy sullies the army and the government, I would like to know what you did to save the honour of the country and the military in this issue.
Why move the court now? You may cite the PIL filed by an ex-servicemen’s association. But you could have let the army and the defence ministry deal with it. I am sure neither you nor any of your supporters would have approved of a junior officer or jawan approaching the court suddenly to save his ‘honour’.
If this battle were about ‘honour and integrity’ and not extended tenure, couldn’t you have waited for some more and, after retiring this year, sued the government? The ministry will neither bury nor burn your records on your retirement, so you would have had a lot of free time — not wasting the army chief’s precious time on personal issues — to fight your battle. Then you would also have been seen as a victim of bureaucracy, and all our sympathies would have been with you.
Otherwise, you are only setting a bad example for not just your men — not to forget the navy and the IAF — but for millions of young minds who are inspired by the armed forces. They would no more be able to differentiate between other government servants and military personnel. What a shame that would be then, General.
An admirer of the Indian Army.