After his attack on The Indian Express for the news report on the TSD inquiry, Gen VK Singh (retd), former Chief of Army Staff, has now trained his guns on The Hindu and, In particularl, its Chandigarh-based Assistant Editor, Chandersuta Dogra.
Give below is a detailed rebuttal of Chandersuta to Gen VK Singh's allegations against her which were put in public domain by him. The allegations raised by the former General are also reproduced in detail in all fairness.
However I must add that having known Chandersuta for several years, I do not give any credence to the theory that she would have waylaid anyone for an interview let alone the former COAS.
CHANDERSUTA DOGRA'S REBUTTAL
Gen (retd) VK Singh has put out a rejoinder about what he describes as “false and motivated allegations” made against him by the Indian Express, The Hindu and specifically against me as the correspondent of The Hindu who interviewed him recently. Oddly, he chose to put it on the internet and social media, held a chat on twitter based on this rejoinder but did not send it to me or my newspaper directly with who he claims to have a grievance.
Neverthless, this is an attempt to set the record straight. Not only does Gen (retd) Singh deny that he gave an interview to me but goes on to say that I waylaid him at a friend’s place and threw some questions at him. Wrong. The interview was set up by his lawyer Vishwajeet Singh and his daughter Mrinalini, and my newspaper approved my travel from Chandigarh to Delhi to enable me to meet the General and do the interview. One does not drive 250 kms just to way lay someone in the hope of being able to pose a few questions!
I also took the precaution of recording all that he said so that he could not back out later. So his claim that he did not say some of the things given in the interview can be exposed by a mere playback of the recording. He disclosed many more sensitive things but my newspaper took an editorial decision not to go public with that information in the larger interest of maintaining peace in Jammu and Kashmir.
Since the General had made serious allegations against two persons in this interview, it was incumbent upon me to contact them for their responses to the allegations. Their counter to his allegations were duly inserted into his interview, which is probably what he describes as “falsehoods, distortions and halftruths”. We see it as good journalism.
Nowhere in my story have I said that the TSD gave the off air interceptors to the 15 Corps. All I have said The 15 Corps did receive this equipment (Not from TSD) but sent it back because it was found unfit for use in counter insurgency Ops as they were not only receivers but also emitters. It was important to include this bit, which I learnt from my sources, because the army’s enquiry against the TSD (as reported in newspapers) details that two such interceptors were used by the TSD to illegally eavesdrop on government functionaries in Delhi and Jammu. The TSD was not authorised to possess this equipment. When the eavesdropping became public the interceptors were destroyed and dumped into the Chenab, according to the enquiry.
General VK Singh alleged in his conversation with me, that two interceptors had been shown as destroyed by Lt Gen (retd) Tejinder Singh, the then Director General Defence Intelligence (DGDI) and later sold to a private Singapore based company. Lt Gen (retd) Tejinder Singh countered this by asking the General to substantiate this by providing proof of this to the investigating agencies. That I gave space to Lt Gen (retd) Tejinder Singh’s (who had last year filed a defamation suit against the former Army Chief for other allegations) responses is possibly what has irked the General and prompted this tirade.
His ire is also over the fact that I, as the wife of an army officer who is much junior to him, had the temerity to do an independent, unbiased report based on facts instead of the coloured version that he wanted me to put out. In the hierarchy bound Army, wives of army officers are expected to be just as subordinate to seniors as their husband’s are. I was forced to remind the General’s media managers, who have accused me of “backstabbing” through text messages and have threatened me with dire consequences since then, that I do not work for the General and am merely doing my job as a responsible journalist. Throwing rank at me serves no purpose.
But as I have learnt the hard way in the last two days, the General and his spin doctors have no use for fair and impartial journalists. They see conspiracies where there aren’t any and think that everyone in the media is either for sale (read those who are critical of the general) or can be intimidated into swallowing everything that they claim is the ‘real truth’.
I have known Gen (retd) VK Singh since April 2012 when I first met him to do an interview for Outlook magazine where I then worked. It was carefully scrutinised by his media managers who approved every word of what went into print. I have had a first hand experience of his intimidating tactics even then, because he suddenly threatened to withdraw the interview if it was not put on the cover of the magazine.
In his quest for a political career, this army officer who has a reputation for being upright and straightforward has entered the game of peddling lies, double speak and insinuations, in the same manner as the politicians he has been critical of in the past. Shoot, scoot, deny. The metamorphoses from peaked cap to khadi topi is complete.
General VK Singh'S Statement – 26 September 2013
On 20th September ‘The Indian Express’ published a front page banner headlines story titled, “Unit set up by VK Singh used secret funds to try and topple J&K government, block Bikram Singh: Army probe” claiming to be a leak of a ‘Top Secret’ Army ‘Board of Officers inquiry’ report on the working of Technical Services Division (TSD), a secret intelligence unit set up during my tenure as Chief of the Army Staff.
At the outset I would like to state that all the allegations are false and motivated.
First and foremost, TSD was not set up by me as my secret army, but was set up by the Army at the behest of the National Security Advisor after the dastardly attack on Mumbai by Pakistani terrorists who were subsequently labeled by the media as ‘non-state actors’. TSD was created as a capability mentioned in the operational directive of the Raksha Mantri and set up following the due process of procedures existing in the Army as part of intelligence units under the DGMI. Hence, though its existence by the very nature of its work was secret, its existence as a secret unit is not true. That this unit was disbanded shortly after I retired was a decision taken by the powers that be for reasons best known to them.
As far as the general public is concerned, by its very nature, TSD operations were ‘top secret’. In that event, even the existence of TSD should never have been publicised. Further, if there is exposure of the actual working of the top secret unit, leaking information about it was seditious, regardless of whether information is true or false. Even knowledge of the existence of TSD can help the nation's enemies. Being treasonous, the consequences for the ‘leakers’ and their collaborators could be very serious. Regardless of the above, false stories about the TSD have been appearing in the media for almost a year and half. The Government of India, most amazingly, has chosen to remain completely silent in this regard and have done nothing whatsoever to either trace the source of the leaks or make any categorical statement putting an end to this malicious and dangerous campaign.
Following the dictum that a lie oft repeated soon becomes the truth, TSD has been the target of malicious propaganda that has now assumed extremely serious proportions, as can be seen from the following narration. Despite repeated requests to the PMO to institute an inquiry to trace the source of the leaks, this has been ignored and left to simmer endlessly. Since the beginning of 2012, through ‘leaked stories’ I have been subjected to all kinds of canards and innuendos questioning my nationalism, patriotism and integrity. Starting with allegations of bugging the Raksha Mantri’s office (TSD was a Human Int organization and at no stage had any Off-Air Interceptors on their inventory), charges have been levelled of moving troops secretly to stage a coup, leaking my own letter to the PM that drew attention to the tremendous shortage of ammunition and other war stores (that would severely affect our fighting capability) and now finally that I had used TSD to topple the Government of Kashmir.
That this entire campaign is not only motivated and highly dangerous, the following events tell their own story:
Picking up from the Indian Express leak, on 24 September 2013 ‘The Hindu’ published a news story titled “V.K. Singh counters charges, admits ‘pro-India NGOs’ were funded” written by their Chandigarh correspondent. The opening sentence, that it was my “first proper interview to a newspaper since details of an internal inquiry into his conduct as Army chief were published in The Indian Express last week” itself is false. The fact is that I was waylaid by her at a friend’s place and at her insistence answered a few questions.
As a corollary several falsehoods, half-truths and distortions were deliberately inserted in the news story published by the Newspaper. The most prominent one is that I had claimed that “the panchayat elections of 2011 and the sudden end to the stone-throwing agitation in Kashmir in 2010” were the two major achievements of the TSD. The writer of the news story has actually done some clever ‘cut and paste’ based on information that seems to have been fed to her along with my comments on television. The correspondent has also claimed that senior army officers in 15 Corps have told her (the correspondent is the wife of a serving re-employed officer) that the TSD provided the Corps with off-the air interceptors which later proved to be faulty. Both these are blatant lies that have been cleverly inserted.
Almost immediately, elements and vested interests-political and official-are deliberately twisting and distorting this report and are whipping up frenzy with the purpose of alienating J&K and spreading disharmony among the armed forces. ‘The Hindu’ itself has gone into a frenzy by publishing a concocted story on its front page on 25 September under the title ‘Our lives in danger, say sarpanches in J&K”. This news report says that because of my reckless statements, I have caused “an extremely serious apprehension of militant attacks on more than 33,000 panches and sarpanches as I have completely discredited and maligned the panchayat elections of 2011.” Nothing can be farther from the fact. This statement was inserted by the newspaper into the false interview and cleverly manipulated to sound as if I had made this claim. This is nothing but a fabricated lie.
What is worse, the Newspaper Editor himself has added fuel to fire by publishing the top front page news item in ‘The Hindu’ (26 September) titled “V.K. Singh’s claims damaged India’s interests, officials say”. Quoting ‘senior officials’ of the government this story accuses me of causing “enormous damage” to the country through some of my recent statements on Jammu and Kashmir, and that the government was investigating my claim that military officers had made illegal payments to politicians, and would decide on what action to take once the facts were established.
This news report has been written by Sidharth Varadarajan, Editor and the Newspaper from ‘On Board the PM’s Flight’ in which he was travelling to Washington DC as part of Prime Minister’s entourage to meet US President and address the UN.
Members of this entourage are former Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister and presently his advisor; former Foreign Secretary and presently National Security Advisor; former Defence Secretary and presently Comptroller & Auditor General of India; Media Advisor to PM; Editors of ‘Indian Express’ and ‘The Hindu’.
The former Defence Secretary (now CAG) initiated the ‘Board of Officers report ’ through the Army and received the report in March 2013; National Security Advisor has been dealing with and examining the report, a former Joint Secretary in the Defence Ministry, who worked very closely with this Defence Secretary leaked the report, Editor ‘Indian Express’ published it and Editor ‘The Hindu’ has taken it to a frenzy suggesting in its front page that lives of 33,000 panches and sarpanches in the valley are in peril because of me.
This is probably the same team that leaked my top secret letter to PM on Defence unpreparedness, promoted the obnoxious ‘line of succession’ in the Army burying merit in the process, accused me of plotting a coup against the Government of India, patronized the TATRA truck purchase and indulged in many other defence purchase scams and worst of all wanted to sell out the Siachen Glacier to China-Pakistan through a dubious Track II initiative headed by the now discredited Air Chief Marshall Tyagi in which ‘The Hindu’ Editor was a key member.
These are the facts that cannot be endlessly disguised by this powerful group of people who seem to care little for our National Interest, as scam after scam has left the ruling party morally bankrupt.
However, to them all, let me just remind them of the National motto: ‘Satyameva Jayate’ – “Truth alone shall Triumph”.