“Should Not Be Any Misuse Of Armed Forces To Influence Electorate”: Former Navy Chief Writes To EC
Soon after the Pulwama terror attack which claimed the lives of more than 40 CRPF jawans, Indian Air Forces carried out air strikes. While citizens across the nation celebrated the airstrikes, the political parties tried to politicise the matter and started slinging mud at each other. When Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthama was released by Pakistan, on one hand the opposition parties claimed that it was because of the international pressure, while some BJP workers praised Modi for helping Abhinandan to return. To be honest this is not a new trend that is being taken up by political parties. Parties have time and again used the valours of the three forces (Indian Army, Navy, and Indian Air Forces) for gaining political mileage.
Fearing the misuse of Indian Armed Force for electoral gains by politicising them, Former Indian Navy chief (Retd) Admiral L Ramdas on February 7, wrote a letter to Chief Election Commissioner of India, Sunil Arora, reported The Quint. In the letter, he has urged the Election Commission (EC) to stop political parties against misusing photographs or other material related to the armed forces for political gains. Ramdas on the ongoing tension between India and Pakistan has strictly said that photographs or documents related to the Pulwama attack and Balakot air strike or the capture and release of Abhinandan Varthama by Pakistan should not be used. In the letter, which is published by The Citizen he talked about how Armed Forces have been both apolitical and secular. He said, “I am sure that you are well aware that the Armed Forces have always prided themselves on belonging to a structure, an ethos and environment which has been both apolitical and secular”.
He also said that he is not only the one who feels this way, but his colleagues too feel the same. He said that he and his colleagues wanted to share their “collective sense of dismay and deep concern”. He further touched upon the point that political parties using images, uniforms and other examples, showing pictures of the armed forces with political figures, in public spaces, in media, and election rallies should be banned. Rebuking the ongoing trend, he in his letter said that this is not at all acceptable as it will besmirch the very foundation and value system of the armed forces. He also included news reports of posters and images that were used by political parties to influence people. He attached a news report where a poster of BJP party was seen in which an image of Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthama was used.
The letter goes as follows:
On behalf of a number of my colleagues from the armed forces veterans, this is Admiral L Ramdas – a former Chief of the Naval Staff – writing to share some of my concerns regarding recent instances of using the Armed Forces for political gains, especially in the aftermath of both Pulwama and the strikes in Balakot and the shooting down, capture and repatriation of an Indian Air Force pilot.
I am sure that you are well aware that the Armed Forces have always prided themselves on belonging to a structure, an ethos and environment which has been both a-political and secular.
With elections due a few weeks from now, it is particularly important that there should not be any misuse of these recent events by any political party to send triumphalist or jingoistic messages which can influence the electorate. And it is in this context that as a responsible citizen and a proud veteran of the Indian Armed Forces, I share our collective sense of dismay and deep concern at how some political parties are brazenly pushing their agenda using images, uniforms and other examples, showing pictures of the armed forces with political figures, in public spaces, in media, election rallies and so on.
This is completely unacceptable since it has the potential to destroy the very foundations and value system of our armed forces, drawn from the vision, the spirit and intent of the Indian Constitution.
We, therefore, urge the Election Commission to immediately intervene and send a strong message to the political parties that there should be no misuse of the photographs as indeed any other material/reports or other information pertaining to the armed forces for electioneering in any way.
Just as an example of what is happening, please browse through the links below. (The authenticity of these need to be verified at your end.) An image of the poster posted at Colaba, Mumbai, is also attached. [This was subsequently taken down overnight after a local citizens group raised an objection.]
Looking forward to immediate action on this matter by the Honourable Election Commission. In the interest of time, I have not circulated this open letter for more signatures, although many veterans are duly agitated by these attempts to compromise the integrity and secular nature of the Indian Armed Forces.
Yours Truly, L Ramdas (Former Chief of the Naval Staff)
The Logical Indian Take
The Indian Armed Forces round the clock protect us on international borders. Dragging them by political parties to gain votes is morally incorrect. No matter how close we are to the election, one should never politicise the armed forces.