Army chief General Bipin Rawat has come under heavy criticism over his comments on the anti-CAA, NRC protests, with several arguing that it's "none of your business" to make statements on issues which do not have anything to do with military activities.
"Leaders are not those who lead people in inappropriate directions, as we are witnessing in a large number of university and college students, the way they are leading masses of crowds to carry out arson and violence in our cities and towns. This is not leadership," the soon-to-retire general
said at a health summit on Thursday.
Reacting to Rawat's comments, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, taking a dig at the army chief, said that leadership is about knowing the limits of one's office. "It is about understanding the idea of civilian supremacy and preserving the integrity of the institution that you head," said Owaisi.
Shama Mohamed, Congress' national media panelist, wrote on Twitter: "One of the reasons India’s Army is highly respected around the world is because it is apolitical. Such political comments are unbecoming of an Army chief. The political neutrality of the Indian Army shouldn’t be compromised under any circumstances!"
However, former special forces officer, Major Surendra Poonia, came in support of Rawat, saying that he had only commented on the students' agitation and that he did not refer to any political party or event.
"What Gen Bipin Rawat said in the seminar was that student leaders who led the students in universities to arson and rioting were not the right kind of leadership. He only commented on leadership and did not name any political or religious leadership in it. He has every right to speak for the leadership for the betterment of students," Major Poonia was quoted as saying by
While Major Poonia has clarified that Rawat's comments had nothing to do with politics as he was talking in the context of leadership, it is clear that the army chief was referring to the anti-CAA protests by the students in India, which indeed is a political issue.
Interestingly, Rawat himself in 2017, had said that armed forces and the military “should be somehow" kept away from politics.
“The military should be somehow kept out of politics. Of late, we have been seeing that politicization of the military has been taking place. I think we operate in a very secular environment. We have a very vibrant democracy where the military should stay far away from the polity," Rawat said.
He was speaking at an event organised by the United Service Institution.
So what do the army rules say about political and non-military activities? The Army Rules, 1954, as stated on the website of Ministry of Defence: No person subject to the Act shall attend, address, or take part in any meeting or demonstration held for a party or any political purposes, or belong to or join or subscribe in the aid of, any political association or movement. No person subject to the Act shall issue an address to electors or in any other manner publicly announce himself or allow himself to be publicly announced as a candidate or as a prospective candidate for election to Parliament, the legislature of a State or a local authority, or any public body or act as a member of a candidate’s election committee, or in any way actively promote or prosecute a candidate’s interests. No person subject to the Act shall publish in any form whatever or communicate directly or indirectly to the Press any matter in relation to a political question or on a service subject or containing any service information, or publish or cause to be published any book or letter or article or other document on such question or matter or containing such information without the prior sanction of the Central Government, or any officer specified by the Central Government in this behalf. No person shall deliver a lecture or wireless address, on a matter relating to a political question or on a service subject or containing any information or views on any service subject without the prior sanction of the Central Government or any officer specified by the Central Government in this behalf.
Former navy chief Admiral L Ramdas too criticised Rawat for his remarks saying the army chief was "wrong" in making political statements.Ramdas said all the three services have an internal code prescribing that they must be neutral and not partisan. He added that these rules have been the bedrock of the armed forces for decades.
"The rule is very clear that we are serving the country and not the political forces and to express any political views as we have heard today are quite a wrong thing for any serving personnel whether he is the top gun or at the bottom rank. It is not proper," Ramdas told PTI.