Gen Rawat’s political remarks assailed

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NEW DELHI: Indian Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat on Thursday slammed the people calling for protests in the country against the new citizenship law, saying leadership was not about guiding crowds including students “to carry out arson and violence”.

His remarks drew sharp criticism from some retired and serving military officers, who accused him of needlessly wading into the raging political controversy over the controversial law.

“Leaders are not those who lead people in inappropriate directions, as we are witnessing in a large number of university and college students […] This is not leadership,” said Gen Rawat, speaking at a healthcare leadership summit here.

“A leader is a person who leads you in the correct direction, gives you the right advice and then ensures that he cares for the people he leads. So, leadership is by personal example and that is what we in the armed forces are proud of,” added Gen Rawat, who is tipped to take over as the country’s first-ever chief of defense staff after completing his three-year tenure as the army chief on Dec 31.

Serving and retired officers, who stressed that the armed forces are justifiably proud of their apolitical and secular ethos, maintained the army chief had “crossed the line yet again” by taking a public stand against the ongoing anti-CAA protests.

Former Navy Chief retired Admiral L. Ramdas said Gen Rawat’s remarks were clearly “wrong”, stressing that armed forces personnel must follow the decades-old principle of “serving the country and not any political force”. The armed forces have “an internal code prescribing that they must be neutral and not partisan”, he said, adding that these rules have been the bedrock of the services for decades.

A senior serving officer said: “From political leaders taking credit for cross-border surgical strikes (in 2016) and the Balakot airstrikes (February this year) to UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath dubbing the Indian Army as ‘Modiji ki sena’ at an election rally, the armed forces are increasingly being politicized.”

Yet another officer said: “The sorry state of affairs has led to senior officers jostling for top posts in their forces. Many believe they can get promotions with the right political connections or making pro-government statements.”

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