Armed forces

Military Veterans to Modi: ‘Dissent is Not Treason… It is the Essence of Democracy’

114 former officers stand with #NotInMyName, ‘dismayed’ at vigilantism and free speech crackdown

"What is happening in our country today strikes at all that the armed forces, and indeed our constitution, stand for." Representative image credit: PTI

“What is happening in our country today strikes at all that the armed forces, and indeed our constitution, stand for.” Representative image credit: PTI

A group of 114 veterans of the Indian armed forces have written an open letter to the prime minister, chief ministers of states and lieutenant-governors of union territories, expressing their distress at “divisive” recent developments in the country which “go against the secular and democratic values enshrined in the constitution”. The letter is reproduced below.

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We are a group of veterans of the Indian Armed Forces who have spent our careers working for the security of our country. Collectively, our group holds no affiliation with any single political party, our only common commitment being to the constitution of India.

It saddens us to write this letter, but current events in India have compelled us to register our dismay at the divisiveness that is gripping our country. We stand with the ‘Not in My Name’ campaign that mobilised thousands of citizens across the country to protest against the current climate of fear, intimidation, hate and suspicion.

The armed forces stand for “unity in diversity”. Differences in religion, language, caste, culture or any other marker of belonging have not mattered to the cohesion of the armed forces, and servicemen of different backgrounds have fought shoulder to shoulder in the defence of our nation, as they continue to do today. Throughout our service, a sense of openness, justice and fair play guided our actions. We are one family. Our heritage is like the multi-coloured quilt that is India, and we cherish this vibrant diversity.

However, what is happening in our country today strikes at all that the armed forces, and indeed our constitution, stand for. We are witness to unprecedented attacks on society at large by the relentless vigilantism of self-appointed protectors of Hinduism. We condemn the targeting of Muslims and Dalits. We condemn the clampdowns on free speech by attacks on media outlets, civil society groups, universities, journalists and scholars, through a campaign of branding them anti-national and unleashing violence against them while the state looks away.

We can no longer look away. We would be doing a disservice to our country if we do not stand up and speak for the liberal and secular values that our constitution espouses. Our diversity is our greatest strength. Dissent is not treason; in fact, it is the essence of democracy.

We urge the powers that be at the Centre and in the states to take note of our concerns and urgently act to uphold our constitution, both in letter and in spirit.

Signatories (in alphabetical order of last name)

Lt Col E.N. Ambre
Brig V.K.S. Antony
Maj M.K. Apte
Col C.T. Arasu
Lt Col Israr Asghar
Cdr C.R. Babu
Lt Cdr P.S. Bal
Lt Cdr Rakeh Bali
Maj Gen Dipankar Banerjee
Lt Gen C.A. Barretto
Brig Noel Barretto
Col T.S. Bedi
Surg Cdr P Bellubi
Petty Off Gajanan Bhat I.N.
Cdr P.G. Bhat
Gp Capt A.V. Bhagwat
Col V. Bopiah
Maj Gen P.R. Bose
Vice Adm A. Britto
Col R.T. Chacko
Lt Col M. Chandrasekhar
Cdre R. Clarke
Col K.S. Choudhry
Brig T.P.S. Chowdhury
Brig Dileep Deore
Col Samuel Dhar
Lt Gen F.T. Dias
Lt Col A.P. Durai
Gp Capt M.P. Elangovan
Maj Gen Shyamal Ghosh
Col V. Nanda Gopal
Cdre E.C. Govindan
Col V. Govindarajan
Col R.P. Grover
Cdre P.C. Gulati
Cdr M. Hari
Lt Col Muzaffar Hasan
Brig Prem Hejmadi
AVM Kapil Kak
Col A.T. Kalghatgi
Maj Gen MPS Kandal
Col M.S. Kapoor
Maj Gen T.K. Kaul
Lt Col P.B. Keskar
Lt Col V. Kharkar
Wg Cdr R. Khosla
Brig Anil Malhotra
Col Arun Malhotra
Lt Col R.C. Malhotra
Brig G.K. Malik
Cdre G. Menezes
Wg Cdr S.N. Metrani
Maj G.N. Misra
AVM R.P. Misra
Col Biman Mistry
Col R.B. Mistry
Col A.K. Mitra
Col Pradip Mitra
Maj Gen H. Mukherji
Maj Gen R.P.R.C. Naidu
Col Pavan Nair
Lt Col V.K. Nair
Col R.L.V. Nath
Cdr M. Nirmal
Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi
Rear Adm Alan O’Leary
Air Cdre Tanpat Pannu
Lt Col Niraj Pant
Col R.C. Patial
Cdr Hector Poppen
Capt Subbarao Prabhala IN
Brig Ranjit Prasad
Brig V.H.M. Prasad
Wg Cdr K.V. Raghuram
Brig R.S. Rajan
Col S.S. Rajan
Cdr S.M. Rajeshwar
Air Marshal Philip Rajkumar
Col T.N. Raman
Admiral L. Ramdas
Vice Adm I.C. Rao
Col T.K. Ravindranath
Air Marshal D.S. Sabhikhi
Lt Col Nagaraj Sastry
Lt Gen K.M. Seth
Col P.D. Shah
Brig Baqir Shameem
Lt Gen Y.N. Sharma
Lt Col H.D. Shirmane
Vice Adm M.R. Schunker
Cdr M.A. Somana
Brig Amardeep Singh
Gp Capt D.R. Singh
Brig Joginder Singh
Brig Mastinder Singh
Cdr Rajiv Singh
Col Salam K Singh
Col S. Srikantha
Brig M. Sudandiram
Flt Lt R. Suresh
Sgt M.N. Subramani
Lt Cdr P. Subramanyam
Maj Gen L. Tahliani
Cdr S.P. Taneja
Cdr T.P. Tharian
Lt Col J.K. Thomas
Cdr M. Thomas
Cdr N. Tripathy
Air Marshal N.V. Tyagi
Capt A.K. Varma
Wg Cdr B.J. Vaz
Maj Rajah Velu
Lt Col R. Venugopal
Maj Gen S.G. Vombatkere

  • alok asthana

    Good of veterans to write this, but such feedback will cut no ice with Modi. Feedback is useful for a king who doesn’t know that he is naked. For a king who well knows it, or is of the view that ‘ I don’t care if I am naked.’, this is of no use. We need to throw out this party.

  • alok asthana

    Rakesh, I too am a veteran and agree that dissent is not treason. I am also not faulting or blaming those who wrote the latter. What I am saying that telling this to govt is a waste of time. These guys have too thick a skin. More than the thick skin, they are decidedly evil. Regarding your last line, the idea of India as enshrined in the constitution has long vanished. Army has no role to play in this case.

  • Anjan Basu

    The govt’s ‘culture brigade’ will find its ( admittedly limited) literary resources severely stressed in their need to suitably describe the ‘villainy’ of these veterans. Unfortunately for the troll army, such brilliant appellations as ‘libbtards’, ‘sickulars’ or ‘presstitutes’ will not quite fit the bill. I am keen to see how such an un- veteranlike ‘attack’ on the patriotic govt inspires the BJP’s foot soldiers to new heights of linguistic felicity.

  • alok asthana

    Rakesh, I fully agree with you. The letter of the veterans speak volumes of their commitment. What I pointed out was the futility of it.The present government is doing it on purpose and reaping great dividends for it. Just going from strength to strength. As a consultant on creativity, problem solving and innovation, I am struck with the inherent contradiction of this — Indians don’t approve of what PM is doing. However, he still wins big. How does one solve this contradiction? Believe me, am studying it as best as I can.