New Delhi: Days away from retirement, army chief General Bipin Rawat waded into the realm of politics on Thursday, criticising those leading protests over the new citizenship law for guiding the masses, including students, into carrying out “arson and violence.”
His comments drew sharp reactions from opposition leaders.
“Leaders are not those who lead people in inappropriate directions, as we are witnessing in a large number of university and college students, the way they are leading masses of crowds to carry out arson and violence in our cities and towns. This is not leadership,” the army chief said at a health summit.
#WATCH Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat: Leaders are not those who lead ppl in inappropriate direction. As we are witnessing in large number of universities&colleges,students the way they are leading masses&crowds to carry out arson&violence in cities & towns. This is not leadership. pic.twitter.com/iIM6fwntSC
— ANI (@ANI) December 26, 2019
He further said, “A leader is one person who leads you in the correct direction. Gives you the right advice and then ensures that you care for the people you live.”
General Rawat, who will retire on December 31, is tipped to be India’s first Chief of Defence Staff. The CDS will be the single-point military adviser to the government on tri-services matters. In his three-year tenure as army chief, he has faced multiple allegations of not remaining politically neutral.
“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.
“Even amongst the crowd you find that the leaders emerge. But leaders are those who lead people in the right direction. Leaders are not those who lead people in inappropriate directions,” he added.
Rawat seemed to place the blame of the violence in the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests on its “leaders”. The protests have been largely organic and led by students, and the violence has – in a vast majority of places – been perpetrated by police.
He has, on occasion, expounded on why the armed forces are not ready for woman combat officers and claimed there was an orchestrated influx of people planned from Bangladesh into India through the northeast, much to the bafflement of Bangladesh.
When an army major, Leetul Gogoi, was facing a court of inquiry for using a Kashmiri man as a human shield by tying him to the bonnet of his jeep and driving around for several hours, General Rawat awarded him a medal of honour.
Opposition parties, including the Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist), reacted sharply to Rawat’s latest pronouncement.
“I agree with him. Yes, leaders should lead (people) in the appropriate direction. I am absolutely sure, he has the prime minister of this country in mind when talking about that,” said rights activist Yogendra Yadav.
“I agree with him. Yes, leaders should lead (people) in the appropriate direction. I am absolutely sure, he has the prime minister of this country in mind when talking about that,” said @_YogendraYadav https://t.co/jmjrEsMN33
— Outlook Magazine (@Outlookindia) December 26, 2019
Congress spokespersons Brijesh Kalappa and Manish Tewari and leader Digvijaya Singh too slammed General Rawat for his remarks.
Army Chief Bipin Rawat 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!!
— Brijesh Kalappa (@brijeshkalappa) December 26, 2019
Since when have Army Chief’s started commenting about internal affairs .It undermines Civil-Military Relations whose cornerstone is that Armed Forces neither comment or interfere in domestic politics. This has been our singular success going back to 1947. https://t.co/a2yg9QsCit
— Manish Tewari (@ManishTewari) December 26, 2019
“Leaders Not Those Who Lead Masses In Arson”: Army Chief On Citizenship Protests
I agree General Saheb but also Leaders are not those who allow their followers to indulge in Genocide of Communal Violence. Do you agree with me General Saheb? https://t.co/rOo0vFGMIf
— digvijaya singh (@digvijaya_28) December 26, 2019
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi said leadership is about knowing the limits of one’s office.
Leadership is knowing the limits of one’s office.
It is about understanding the idea of civilian supremacy & preserving the integrity of the institution that you head https://t.co/qqbxgGj72j
— Asaduddin Owaisi (@asadowaisi) December 26, 2019
The CPI(M)’s politburo issued a statement condemning what they said was an “unconstitutional outburst” by the Army Chief.
“Army Chief’s statement underlines 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,” read the statement, which also sought to highlight whether India was attempting to politicise its military the way Pakistan has.