When were you born?
For Indians, the Matriculation or Higher Secondary or 12th Board certificate serves as the unimpeachable basis for date of birth. The Supreme Court, too has ruled as such in unambiguous terms.
But some vested interests inside and outside the country have, however, turned this simple truism upside down in the case of the present Army Chief Gen VK Singh.The recent decision of the Ministry of Defence to disdainfully disregard the Army Chief 's claim about his date of birth is crass politicisation of the Army and is morally and legally preposterous and untenable. The last bastion, the Indian Army is being subverted from within.
All through his career, till he became Lt Gen, The Army Chief's date of birth (10 May 1951) as reflected in the Matriculation Certificate was never doubted. However, towards very late in his career when he appeared on the horizon as the strongest contender to the post of Army Chief, some vested interests fabricated a controversy that his date of birth was 10 May 1950 based on legally untenable and rather preposterous arguments.
It is common knowledge that but for a specific succession plan initiated some years ago, the 'age' controversy in respect of Gen V K Singh would not have been created. Why such premiums on a succession plan?
This question should nag any intelligence hand dealing with Internal and External intelligence. Besides the succession plan there were also moves to prevent Gen VK Singh from becoming COAS.
The entire controversy poses some very serious questions. Why is the discomfort level with Gen VK Singh so high in certain quarters? Is Gen VK Singh being targeted for being upright and intolerant of corruption? Is there a design to weaken the professional moorings of the Indian Army by manipulating and attacking its moral and social fabric?
IT IS ABOUT SUCCESSION
The controversy is not merely about age and tenure of present Chief. More importantly, it is about succession, which was scripted few years ago by none other than the then Army Chief who allegedly bent backwards for a Government sinecure on his retirement and was rewarded as such. The succession script naturally attracted vested interests in the form of politicians, the arms lobby, businessmen and ambitious Army Officers. The controversy needs to be, therefore, understood in its simple entirety.
IT IS A MORAL ISSUE
The controversy surrounding the age of the Army Chief continues to concern the Indian people about the state of health of the Indian Army. It is indeed denting the very edifice of the Indian Army.
The Senior Officers in the Army are divided over the issue. The other Rank and File perceive the controversy in the manner they are fed by the rival camps. The overall consequence is that the image of the Army and the honour and the moral authority of the Office of COAS has never been attacked so viciously by insiders and vested interests for non-Operational reasons. The Pakistani press is agog with half-truths on the issue and has been making insinuations on the poor health and the unity of the Indian Army.
When an Army Chief vouches for a simple detail like his date of birth, it should be moralistically and euphemistically unassailable. Lack of truthfulness and integrity in the leaders, who have chosen the profession of arms, has invariably resulted in the compromise of a country’s physical integrity. The armed forces’ sensitivity to moral issues is best exemplified by Admiral Jeremy Michael Boorda of the US Navy, who committed suicide in 1996 over the controversy of his wearing a medal which he was not entitled to.
It cannot be denied that the psychological integrity of the Army has been fraying over the years. Gen VK Singh’s ‘age’ controversy should not be viewed in isolation. It is actually a manifestation of the deterioration, misuse and subversion of the Office of the COAS for nearly a decade.
WHO CREATED THE CONTROVERSY?
An impression is being sought to be conveyed by the vested interests and detractors of Gen VK Singh that the controversy was created by him just to ‘enjoy’ the office of the COAS for an additional year. This is not true.
The fact is that as far as Gen VK Singh is concerned, his age was never an issue. Nor was the issue ever raked by the Army Headquarters or Defence Ministry in his service career as he rose to the rank of Lt Gen with his date of birth as May 10, 1951.
The issue was raised for the first time by a former Army Chief known for his ambitions for president-ship of social and golf clubs, and his penchant for working out succession plans several notches downwards.
He raked up the issue to ensure passage of one of his favourites, purely on sectarian considerations to the office of the COAS. In this case, he had planned succession three interventions below.
Image: Army Chief V K Singh inspects the guard of honour during the Army Day parade in New Delhi on January 15, 2011. (Photograph copyright AFP)Army Chief's age row settled, he has to retire next year