Friday, September 30, 2011


I've never been a very big fan of Gen JJ Singh. Even when he was the Western Army Commander and I was working with Hindustan Times in Chandigarh, I had a few run- ins with his MGGS who used to be very unhappy with my news coverage. And then there was the famous crying incident which took place when he held a press conference after his elevation as COAS was announced and every effort was made by his staff to persuade me not to write about it. I went ahead while my counterpart in a national daily wrote such a glowing piece that it seemed that it was not the General who had shed tears but the Pakistan COAS!

Be that as it may, I am disgusted to read open allegations being made about how Gen JJ Singh, now the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh, was guided by religious sentiments in ensuring that Gen VK Singh retires on a certain date so that another Sikh, Lt Gen Bikram Singh could become the COAS. What were earlier insinuations have now become open allegations. Assisted no doubt by the fact that the government has had a very dim view of the protestations of Gen VK Singh about the change of his date of birth.

I would not go so far as to say that the directions for unleashing this mudslinging campaign against Gen JJ Singh have come from the very top. But what I would certainly like to believe is that the spin doctors who are managing the media campaign in favour of Gen VK Singh's assertions have now decided to take off their gloves and brace themselves for a knuckle fight.

It is a matter of time before the mudslinging acquires another dimension and also involves mediapersons of different media houses. For all we know the spin doctors may start targetting those journalists who are not taking a stand in their favour in the age-issue.

Be that as it may but the fact remains that the reputation of a former COAS is being trashed as it it were of now value. Gen JJ Singh is perhaps keeping mum because of the Gubernatorial appointment he holds but the fact remains that it has now been decided in principal to malign him and to attribute pro-Sikh sentiments to him. The fact that he was the first Sikh COAS is now being used to denigrate him.

If there is proof of him having deliberately run down Gen VK Singh then go to court and get it decided. It will give the Governor a chance too to rebut the arguments and defend himself. But what some of these uniformed spin doctors are not realising is that such malicious campaigns are harming the organisation more then any individual. Not only are you running down a former COAS but you are also casting an aspersion on the reputation and character of a current Army Commander just because he is a Sikh.

These are dark days for the senior leadership of the Army. It may just slip into an avoidable free fall if the war of words escalates and the mud-slinging attains a momentum which becomes difficult to control. The government needs to look at these developments seriously and needs to check them. An institution which has several hundred years of proud history must not be held to ransom by a few individuals who have their own personal priorities fixed firmly in their sights.

Service before Self must not change to Self before Service.


  1. The fact that Gen VK Singh's date of birth anomaly was discovered in 2006, a period during which Gen JJ Singh was in charge and no corrective action was taken, does raise some questions! Why did the MS not align its records at that time? Gen V K Singh was a Corps commander of a very important strike corps, it's not possible that COAS wasn't involved in the germination of this issue!

  2. In that case why did he not file a statutory complaint at that point of time? Was it because he has happy to the tow the line seeing that he was in the line of succession to become the COAS? Was it because he did not want to upset the apple cart? Was it that he thought that he could get the changes done once he was COAS?

  3. The hierarchical structure of the army restricts an officer from from arguing or questioning his / her superiors. You are a defence correspondent, and you should have access to the signals sent to Gen Singh ..there were threats, unexplained constraints, a pressure to sign and accept 1950. Its easy for a civilian like yourself to refer to terms like "upset an apple cart", but very difficult for an armyman to give up 35-40 years of service with an exemplary record of being a RANGER, and revolt against a manipulative superior officer.

  4. After being at the top (COAS) when the predecessors had retired, Gen Singh has the right to object to the injustice done to him. One has to think strategically and play their cards right.

    This case sets a precedence to all future Army Commanders that personal choices for lines of succession shall have detrimental results.

  5. I'm afraid when things boil down to an open debate and all things black and white, your explanation of "unexplained constraints", "threats", "pressure to sign" and "manipulative senior officer" do not stand much chance. You are, perhaps, a serving officer, so therefore you would not have access to the perspective with which this distasteful episode is being viewed by civilians like me who make up this nation.
    Agreeing or submitting to a wrong is a wrong itself. And there can be no condonation of it. Not even a service of 35-40 years. If he was being wronged he should have been vocal and resorted to all legal measures available.
    The fact is he relented, if at all we can use the word 'relent', because he wanted to become the COAS. And he struck back the moment he became. All he has ended up doing is wasted away the legaqcy of his COAS tenure. He will only be remembered for the date of birth imbroglio as Gen Deepak Kapoor will be remembered for Adarsh. All of us cheered for him when he went after the culprits of that scam, here was someone who meant business, and we are deeply disappointed at the manner in which his tenure has ground itself into this debate.

  6. There is a strong legal case in favour of Gen Singh, so there is no question of "not standing chance".

    In one's profession one sometimes is compelled to submit to situations that one personally doesn't agree with, I am sure you'd have encountered many such situations in your career as well. A logical human mind weighs the pros and cons and acts in the the most appropriate manner. After all if all officers at a junior level start going to courts, you can't run an Army.

    As a media person don't be judgemental and decide what Gen Singh should have done, rather ask yourself what you would have done? Leave the decision making to the courts.

    Legacy is for people to decide. If you give a General barely two years to serve you can't expect him to wave a magical wand! Besides think about the legacy you are going to leave behind by exposing petty cases and blogging it to the internet world.

  7. Petty cases maybe to you, but thank God the Army does not rule this country yet. Exposes will continue to take place even if you or your ilk don't like it. And journalists like me will continue to strive and expose the wrongs in the system and the cover-ups irrespective of the likes and dislikes of a person or persons. We are not here to win a popularity contest or get our dates of birth amended. News is what people don't want found out. It is good for the country, it is good for the Army/Navy/Air Force. But you have every right to judge the blogs as you want and comment on them in the manner you want and I respect it. Informed dissent is the cornerstone of every discussion or debate.
    It is a bit sad that a service where honour and tradition is foremost and where self-respect takes precedence over everything, Army officers are bad mouthing their own senior officers, serving and retired. This bodes ill for the service.
    If Gen VK Singh stands a good chance in court, good luck to him.