Thursday, May 31, 2012


Lt General SR Ghosh was in a unusually friendly mood while interacting with the media today, the day he hung his uniform in exchange for civvies. Nothing strange in that. There are many like him in the Army. Wary of media during their service, unlike many others who are not afraid to speak to media whenever required. However, Lt Gen Ghosh's tenure must rank among the tenures where the Army Commander kept away from the media like the plague. He must be having good reasons for it, I'm sure.

So when the opportunity came to visit Chandimandir and the Command House for the farewell of Lt Gen Ghosh, I decided to grab it with both hands. Much to the discomfort of several busybodies in Command HQs, as I was to learn later. But one could not care less for such bumblebees. So it was after nearly seven or eight years that I set foot in Command House. Last time it had been for the farewell of Lt Gen S Pattabhiraman, one of the most media friendly Army Commanders who came to Chandimandir and never got a single bad word written or said about him. Forthright and truthful, he need not have feared media.

The familiar spectacle unfolded with the same military precision as has been done on countless earlier occasions. The wreath laying ceremony at War Memorial, the inspection of Guard of Honour, the Buggy Ride, the high tea at Command House. Nothing changes.

Every occupant of the Command House wants to leave his or her mark and so did Mrs Bulbul Ghosh. She has her name imprinted on the glass wall of an air conditioned gazebo behind the house overlooking the lush green lawn. This time I did not get a chance to enter the house so I cannot comment on the improvements made therein.

But the most interesting aspect of the entire affair was the media interaction with the retiring GOC-in-C, Western Command. Somewhat reluctant to give a soundbite, yet the General did make his way where we requested him to come. It was there that the latent, pent-up fear of the media in some pompous souls finally arose from the dark depths it was nestling in.

A two star General, whose name I forget now, tried to interject and give his unsought advice on what kind questions may be asked of the outgoing Army Commander or rather what sort of questions may not be asked. He was visibly unhappy when informed that the media personnel present there were professionals who need not be told how to go about their task. This again was not quite to his liking and this was reflected on the contours of his face. He again said something about doing his job ( which I am sure should not entail speaking for his Army Commander) and this time he was firmly told to mind his own business. At this stage The Army Commander also restrained him else things would have turned decidedly ugly. The Army Commander then went on to answer the questions in good humour and with confidence.

Anyway, it was an interesting interlude to an otherwise dull engagement. 'More loyal to the King than the King himself', is a syndrome which afflicts almost every profession and the Army is not the only one.

Perhaps the most telling comment of the day was made by Lt Gen SR Ghosh. Army Commanders come and go, but you from the media stay, he said. That is right General. We have seen many come and go. Some with grace and humility, some with pompousness and hauteur. Change is the only constant. And I am already looking forward to the tenure of the new Army Commander, Lt Gen Sanjeev Chhachra, from Rajput Regiment. It will be an interesting next two years or so, I am sure. And maybe we get another chance to be at the Command House when he retires !  


  1. This well written article sums up the dilemma of Senior Army Officers whether to address media or not. They are fully aware of their weaknesses and lack of communication skills. They feel all the time scared that they may happen to say something which may not be liked by their senior and invite their wrath and spoil their promotional prospects. It also reflects their lack of self confidence. may be they don't want to say what they mean and don't mean what they say.

    Another important fact is that they do not have the moral courage to call spade a spade. They are afraid of speaking and facing the truth because truth is bitter. Shri VK Singh,Retired Gen(I call him 'Shri' because he called Lt Gen Avadhesh Prakash 'SHRI' while addressing the media and in the Charge Sheet) did not have the courage even on 15 Jan 2012 to tell the nation from Parade Ground on Army Day that Army was not ready for war and did not have ammunition. He kept on misleading the nation. Thank GOD his letter to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh was leaked to media by some patriotic person and nation came to know about the war preparedness of Army. Def Min AK Antony has yesterday admitted for the first time that there has been lack of trust between MOD and Army. Whom were they making fool of? None but themselves.

    Lt Gen SR Ghosh had closed the doors of West Command HQ for media and so did Brig Dinkar Adib Dy JAG for retired JAG Officers. Senior officers open their mouth and become media friendly only at the time of retirement when they do not have even remote chance of promotion. Lt Gen Ghosh was expecting promotion to South Bloch as next Army Chief and that is the reason he kept doors shut. All possible efforts were made to ensure that Gen Bikram Singh does not occupy South block.

    During Court martial of Col Bhargav at Chandigah, media correspondents were searched before entering the Court room on the orders of Court and Judge Advocate. Why? Were they carrying ammunition and arms? Their arms and ammunition is Pen and Paper. At the trial of Lt Gen Avadhesh Prakash, media from Guwahati wanted to attend and came to the court complex sitting i the prosecution chamber but Brig Dinkar Adib and Lt Gen Phillips Campose GOC 12 CORPS both expecting promotion as Maj Gen JAG and Army Commander respectively did not allow them to attend and report the proceedings well knowing that Court Martial is an open Court and any body can attend it. Had media been permitted to attend and report the proceedings,Lt Gen Avadhesh Prakash would have been honourably acquitted. They are afraid of the media and do not have the guts to face the truth. Media is actually SAMAJ DARPAN - a mirror that shows you your real face.

    When Mr Aman Chhina wanted to talk to Lt Gen SR Ghosh, a Maj Gen was interfering to ensure that Lt Gen SR Ghosh does not say something which may embarrass them later. He may speak the truth. Not something new. Don't think doors to Command House will remain open for media. No. Back to square one. Media should forget about basic courtesies from Army Officers holding senior appointments. They ave forgotten that KARGIL WAR was fought in drawing room of every house hold and we won. Credit goes to Gen Bikram Singh who used to give daily briefing to the PRESS. More the interaction by senior Armed Forces Officers with the media, more the confidence of the general public in the armed Forces. Now a days we fight total war and victory comes with the help of media. Ignore it at your cost. If there is no close interaction, rumors will spread which will be more damaging and dangerous than true revelations. Col SK Aggarwal ,Retd Advocate

  2. The media is a double edged sword. For every well meaning Officer, and journalists, there are those with an agenda. Service regulations and sensitivities of seniors aside, the last COAS tenure and the ding dong battles with MoD babucracy saw many take open sides. This coming out may not necessarily be a bad thing. If anything the Defence beat media that was second fiddle, has come to prominence. In any case, transparency is always a good thing, for the Armed Forces and those seeking to report and understand / analyse. The BEML reporting and the exposure of the politico-bureaucrat-media complex can only augur well as Generals will know the importance of propaganda and information warfare. Sunshine kills germs.