Expressing outrage over the "use" of the armed forces for "political purposes", over 150 military veterans have written to President Ram Nath Kovind to seek his intervention in preserving the apolitical character of the services.
In an interview to CNBC-TV18, Kapil Kak, air vice marshal (Retd), said, "Unfortunately, it is not fake. General Rodrigues with due respect to him is not spot on there. As far as chief marshal Suri’s view are concerned, he has expressed them unambiguously and if there is kind of difference between his view and what is reflected in the letter and he has said that he is not part of it, we respect that judgement."
"The problem is that we are trying to not distinguish between the government and the party. Prime Minister Modi belongs to a political party, he is the senior most leader and also the government. Accolades can come to him by virtue of the fact that he is a Prime Minister, but that doesn’t mean the party workers out in the open will put Abhinandan Varthaman's photograph. Of course, Congress is equally to be blamed."
The letter, dated April 11, carries the names of eight former service chiefs but two of them -- former army chief general (retd) SF Rodrigues and air chief marshal (retd) N C Suri -- said they have not signed it.
Former army vice chief Lt Gen (retd) ML Naidu also said his consent was not taken before listing his name as one of the signatories. When contacted, several veterans, including former Army chiefs Gen (retd) Deepak Kapoor and Gen (retd) Shankar Roy Chowdhury, acknowledged writing the letter.
Chowdhury said the letter was written expressing sentiments of the military veterans on an important issue. The veterans said they chose to write to the president as he is the custodian of the Constitution as well as the supreme commander of the armed forces.
Referring to Rodrigues and Suri denying signing the letter, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman called the allegations "fake". "It is absolutely condemnable that names were mentioned without taking permission," he said.
The letter cites several examples of the military being used for political purposes, including Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath referring to the armed forces as "Modiji ki Sena" and the display of images of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman at political events. Varthaman was captured by Pakistan after air combat with India and subsequently released.
In their rallies, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a number of BJP leaders have been referring to IAF's Balakot strikes besides mentioning the valour of the armed forces in defending the country.