New Delhi, December 26
Army Chief General Bipin Rawat today triggered a massive row after he publicly criticised people leading protests over the new citizenship law, saying leadership is not about guiding masses, comprising university and college students, to carry out arson and violence across the country.
His comments evoked sharp reactions from Opposition leaders, activists and military veterans who accused him of making political remarks, thereby compromising the long-held convention in the Army of not wading into political matters. The Congress described his remarks “unethical” and alleged he appeared to speak like a BJP leader.
Addressing an event, the Army Chief said: “Leaders are not those who lead people in inappropriate directions, as we are witnessing in a large number of universities and colleges. Masses of crowds are being led to carry out arson and violence in our cities and towns. This is not leadership.” A leader, he said, “leads one in the correct direction”.
“What is so complex about leadership, if it is all about leading. Because when you move forward, everybody follows. It is not that simple. It appears simple, but it is a complex phenomenon,” Rawat said in his speech.
Rawat added leadership was conveyed through personal example. “That is what we in the armed forces are proud of,” he said.
Former Navy Chief Admiral L Ramdas said Gen Rawat was “wrong” in making such remarks as people in the armed forces must follow the decades-old principle of serving the country, and not any political force.
“The rule is very clear that we are serving the country, and not political forces. To express any political views, as we have heard today, is quite a wrong thing for any serving personnel whether he is the top gun or at the bottom rank. It is not proper,” said Ramdas.
The CPM, in a statement, said the Army Chief’s remarks “underline as to how the situation has degenerated under the Modi government where the highest officer in uniform can so brazenly breach the limits of his institutional role”.
“Yes, leaders should lead (people) in the appropriate direction. I am absolutely sure, he has the PM of this country in mind when talking about that,” said rights activist Yogendra Yadav.
Congress spokesperson Brijesh Kalappa tweeted: “Army Chief speaking against #CAAProtests is wholly against constitutional democracy. If Army Chief is allowed to speak on political issues today, it also permits him to attempt an Army takeover tomorrow.”
The Army later issued a clarification, saying the Army Chief had not referred to the CAA. “He has not referred to any political event, personality. He was addressing the future citizens of India who are students. (It is his) righteous duty to guide students on whom shall depend the future of the nation. In the Kashmir valley, youths were misguided by people whom they trusted as leaders,” the Army statement said. — TNS/PTI
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