|Gen (retd) VK Singh (right) with Narendra Modi at the rally in Rewari on Sunday
Sept. 20: An army headquarters committee has recommended a probe by the CBI into the functioning of an intelligence unit that reported to former army chief, General V.K. Singh, but the government is yet to take a decision on calling in the central investigation agency.
In a continuance of the general-versus-general row that erupted when V.K. Singh was the army chief, the report of the board of officers has also found evidence that equipment of the unit, called the technical support division, was used to tap telephone conversations of senior government functionaries including defence minister A.K. Antony.
The report, which does not have the statutory authority of a court of inquiry under the Army Act, was submitted to the ministry of defence in March this year.
The board of officers was formed in August last year and was headed by Lt Gen. Vinod Bhatia who was at that time the director-general, infantry. He was subsequently moved to the crucial post of director-general of military operations that he continues to retain.
The technical division, nominally under the military intelligence wing of Army Headquarters, itself has been rendered “dysfunctional”. The four officers that manned it have been posted out but there are about 30 personnel below officer rank on its rolls.
In a statement today, the defence ministry said the board “report impinges on matters of national security and, as such, the government will take a decision and further actions after a careful examination of the report”. The ministry also said “the government has in place measures to prevent any such undesirable activities”. It did not detail what the “undesirable activities” were.
While in service, V.K. Singh, who was the army chief from March 31, 2010, to May 31, 2012, took the unprecedented step of taking the Centre to court over the issue of his date of birth before withdrawing the case after the Supreme Court said it would not deal with it.
Since retirement he has been campaigning against corruption alongside Anna Hazare. Last week, he shared the dais with BJP PM-hopeful Narendra Modi at an ex-servicemen’s rally in Rewari, Haryana, and has in the past attended another public meeting with Om Prakash Chautala. He is a staunch critic of the UPA government.
V.K. Singh’s animosity with with General Bikram Singh, his successor and the current army chief, is no secret.
The report has allegedly insinuated that the division under V.K. Singh tried to engineer a regime change in Jammu and Kashmir by toppling the Omar Abdullah government by paying off a legislator.
It also alleged that the division had diverted funds to an NGO that engineered a case of a fake encounter under Bikram Singh when he was a brigadier.
A family from a remote Kupwara village supported by the NGO, Yes Kashmir, had filed a writ petition in the J&K High Court alleging that a man killed in the 2001 Janglat Mandi encounter was an innocent beggar and not the foreign militant Mateen Chacha as claimed by the army. General Bikram Singh, then a brigadier who headed 1 Rashtriya Rifles, was injured in the encounter.
The court rejected the petition, ruling that the encounter was genuine.
Jammu and Kashmir police had last year sought dismissal of the petition, filed at a time Bikram Singh was frontrunner for the post of army chief. The encounter was genuine and there was no merit in the petition, the police said, adding that the NGO had a “vested interest” in the case.
But sources close to V.K. Singh alleged that the government was maligning him for political reasons. “If we are to believe what we are told, it is now possible to engineer a coup for Rs 1 crore,” a lawyer close to him said.
The reference is to the allegation that senior minister in Omar Abdullah’s cabinet Gulam Hasan Mir received more than a crore from the technical support division to destabilise the J&K government. Mir has denied the allegation.
The ruling National Conference in the state today sought a CBI inquiry or a judicial probe into the functioning of the division.
“This issue needs a thorough probe… and as such we demand a judicial probe under a sitting judge of the Supreme Court or CBI…,” party provincial president Nasir Aslam Wani said.