Truly armed: veterans' second letter
Some heights of arrogant indifference are difficult to measure. The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at the Centre exemplifies this best, as is demonstrated by its obliviousness to criticism from spheres close to its patriotic heart — the armed forces, for example. Army veterans had written to the president earlier, objecting to the invocation of the armed forces for electoral purposes. One hundred and forty-four veterans have now sent a second letter, addressed to the president and the prime minister, questioning the government’s ambiguity regarding the Chinese “incursions” in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh. The letter deplores the failure of the political, civil and military establishments that led to the death of 20 Indian soldiers on June 15. Although it is scathing with regard to the inefficiency of the intelligence system and asks for it to be revamped, its target is the prime minister’s obfuscation of facts followed by a government clarification — the letter does not actually say ‘lies’ and does not refer directly to the prime minister — of which China took full advantage. By asking that a fact-finding committee on the Chinese encroachments be formed and made to report before Parliament within a fixed time, the veterans underscore the need for the government’s accountability. A formal statement from the government after any incident such as the one in Galwan Valley should have been made, they write, for that would have done away with rumours and inaccuracies. The timing of the missive is telling, because the ‘disengagement’ on both sides being touted by the Indian government seems now to be resulting in India retreating from spaces hitherto under its control.
What is shocking is that a government should require such a sharp reminder from persons whose lives are an example to the country. They have asked the government to settle border problems with Pakistan, China and others diplomatically so that lives are not wasted. It is an indicator of the acuteness of India’s crisis that the letter goes beyond the immediate issue of Chinese incursions to say that domestic disputes should be settled with discussion and not force, and divisiveness be rejected. It insists on the consolidation of secularism and the need to uphold the Constitution. Is Narendra Modi’s government busy ducking the issues raised by the veterans since it cannot let the police loose on them?