Sir — The Union defence minister, A.K. Antony, correctly termed fears of an alleged military coup — after a leading newspaper reported that two army units moved towards New Delhi on the night of January 16-17 — as “absolutely baseless” (“In a tizzy over army report”, April 5). It seems highly unlikely that the army chief, General V.K. Singh, had plans of staging a coup. It has been made clear that the movements of the mechanized infantry unit from Hissar and of sections of the 50 Independent Para Brigade were routine exercises to test the troops’ ability to move quickly in fog while carrying weaponry for urgent missions.
The dawn of January 17 was indeed foggy. The report in The Indian Express did say that the defence secretary, Shashi Kant Sharma, made an enquiry about the movement of the two units. It also said that intelligence agencies reported an unexpected movement by a key military unit about which the Union defence ministry was not informed. But that does not mean that the army had any ulterior motives.
Rumours of alleged coups can be very demoralizing for the armed forces. Such fears question their patriotism and needlessly alarm the people.
Aranyak Saikia, Guwahati
Sir — Rumours of a possible military coup surfaced after two army units were seen moving towards the nation’s capital on the night after the army chief moved the Supreme Court on the controversial issue of his birth date. The prospect of a coup is absurd. The army and the civilian government share a sense of mutual trust and respect. Moreover, the army’s powers have always been second to those of the civilian government. This favourable balance of power in a democracy has been the envy of many other nations under military rule.
The prime minister, Manmohan Singh, and the army chief have rightly termed reports of the army units taking an aggressive posture near New Delhi as “alarmist” and “stupid”. The freedom of press is a gift that must be used very responsibly. The media must be far more careful in its reporting of incidents that are likely to cause alarm and fear.
Srikanta Bhattacharjee, Calcutta
Sir — If the army were indeed trying to stage a coup, it would not need to bring troops into New Delhi from outside. Army Day celebrations were held in the capital on January 15, so the city was full of trained men from the military anyway. Rumour-mongering is a serious offence and must be dealt with strictly, especially where the nation’s security is concerned.
Ashim Choudhury, Gurgaon
Sir — If a coup were really being planned, I wonder why there were only two army units marching towards New Delhi on that night in January. Having said that, one is also compelled to ask why the protocol of informing the defence ministry beforehand was not followed, given the fact that the army units were supposedly conducting a military exercise in foggy weather.
It is also puzzling why the media chose to highlight the fact that the alleged military movement happened the night after General V.K. Singh moved the apex court. Our trust in the armed forces ought to be implicit. They have been instrumental in keeping the nation safe.
Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee, Faridabad
Sir — The editorial, “In kind too” (April 6), has accurately analysed the declaration of the chief minister — that a monthly stipend of Rs 2,500 will be given to 30,000 imams in West Bengal — by recalling the Constitution. Do constitutional tenets matter at all to political parties and their leaders today? They display a blatant contempt for the Constitution by trying to manipulate its principles to serve their own partisan interests. They play the communal card even though the Constitution prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion. The Congress did it openly in the run-up to the recently-concluded assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh by promising a sub-quota for minority communities. Now, the chief minister and Trinamul Congress supremo, Mamata Banerjee, is trying to woo the imams in the state because they are respected and followed by West Bengal’s sizeable Muslim population. She has shown a blatant disregard for the secular and democratic fabric of the Constitution. It is ironic that the Constitution is being treated in this manner to serve selfish political interests in a democracy.
Chanchal Banerjee, Calcutta
Sir — The editorial, “In kind too”, is right to question the wisdom behind the decision to give a monthly stipend to the state’s imams. Pandering to sectarian sentiments has been perfected by India’s political parties. Banerjee is best known for her unbridled populism. But her recent announcement of granting financial sops to West Bengal’s imams will only serve to foment resentment against the latter. There would be a large number of leaders from other religions who would not benefit from monthly stipends and, consequently, continue to wallow in poverty.
In an attempt to garner minority votes, Banerjee will only end up sowing seeds of communal hostility. West Bengal’s future will be fraught with problems. But making the chief minister see sense is not likely to be an easy task.
Susobhan Sarkar, Calcutta