Veterans Ask President to Urge Parties to Stop Using Military for Political Gains

Vets appeal to President Ram Nath Kovind as Commander in Chief "to ensure that the secular and a-political character of our Armed Forces is preserved".

In an unprecedented election-eve letter of the kind India has never seen before since independence, over 150 armed forces veterans – including three former Army chiefs  and four former Navy chiefs – have written to the President and Commander in Chief to protest the manner in which the ruling party is “taking credit for military operations like cross-border strikes, and even going so far as to claim the Armed Forces to be “Modi ji ki Sena”.

The letter, made public on April 11, urged President Ram Nath Kovind “to take all necessary steps to urgently direct all political parties that they must forthwith desist from using the military, military uniforms or symbols, and any actions by military formations or personnel, for political purposes or to further their political agendas.”

The Wire is publishing the full text of the letter below.


Honourable Shri Ram Nath Kovind
President of India and Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces
Rashtrapati Bhavan,
New Delhi

Dear Shri Ram Nath Kovind Ji,

We, the signatories, are Armed Forces Veterans who have served in the defence of our nation in various appointments, in peacetime and in operational and war zones over the past several decades.

The apolitical and secular nature of India’s Armed Forces has been an article of faith for every soldier, sailor and airman. India’s Armed Forces have loyally upheld the democratic principle of civil control over the military. Their military professionalism on and off the field, combined with the devotion to duty in protecting India’s territorial sovereignty and national integrity, remains widely appreciated.

The soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Armed Forces owe allegiance to the Constitution of India, of which you, as President of the Indian Union, are the legal custodian. It is for this reason that the President is also the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and we serve and execute orders at the will of the President and as decided from time to time by the Executive – that is, the Government of the day.

You would be aware that those in active service (men and women of all ranks in the Army, Navy and Air Force) cannot speak out, even on matters which might affect their interests adversely, since they are subject to military law and are governed by the parliamentary Acts of their respective Service.

However, we Veterans being in continuous touch with our own military fraternity, as also with serving personnel at all levels, have a ‘finger on the pulse’, so to speak. And it is for this reason that we write to bring to your attention, as the Supreme Commander of India’s Armed Forces, some concerns which have caused considerable alarm and disquiet among both the serving and the retired personnel of our Forces.

We refer, Sir, to the unusual and completely unacceptable practice of political leaders taking credit for military operations like cross-border strikes, and even going so far as to claim the Armed Forces to be “Modi ji ki Sena”. This is in addition to media pictures of election platforms and campaigns in which party workers are seen wearing military uniforms; and posters and images with pictures of soldiers and especially of Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, displayed.

We do appreciate that complaints by some senior retired personnel, including a written submission from a former Chief of the Naval Staff to the Chief Election Commissioner, have elicited a prompt response. Indeed a notification has been issued asking for an explanation from those responsible for these statements, including from the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. However we regret to state that these do not appear to have resulted in any substantive change of behaviour and practice on the ground.

With the General Elections round the corner, and given the prevailing environment where political parties and candidates seem to be acting in total disregard of the declaration of the ‘model code of conduct’, we fear that such incidents may only increase as polling day draws near.

We believe that you will surely agree that any such misuse of the Armed Forces established under the Constitution of India and under the supreme command of the President of India, would impinge adversely on the morale and fighting efficiency of the serving man or woman in uniform. It could therefore directly affect national security and national integrity.

We therefore appeal to you to ensure that the secular and a-political character of our Armed Forces is preserved.

We hereby respectfully urge you to take all necessary steps to urgently direct all political parties that they must forthwith desist from using the military, military uniforms or symbols, and any actions by military formations or personnel, for political purposes or to further their political agendas.

This communication is copied to the Chief Election Commissioner of the Election Commission of India for information and action.

We, the undersigned, endorse the above.

Yours Faithfully

1 Gen SF Rodrigues, PVSM,VSM **

2 Gen Shankar Roy Chowdhury, PVSM,ADC

3 Gen Deepak Kapoor, PVSM, AVSM,SM,VSM,ADC

4 Adm Laxminarayan Ramdas, PVSM,AVSM,VrC, VSM,ADC

5 Adm Vishnu Bhagwat, PVSM,AVSM

6 Adm Arun Prakash, PVSM,AVSM,VrC,VSM,ADC

7 Adm Sureesh Mehta, PVSM, AVSM

8 Air Chief Marshal NC Suri, PVSM, AVSM, VM, ADC **

9 Lt Gen Sanjeev Anand

10 Lt General KS Rao, PVSM, SC, SM, Arjuna Awardee

11 Lt General Mohan Ramdas

12 Lt General YN Sharma

13 Lt General Vinay Shankar

14 Lt General Prakash Gokarn

15 Lt General Vijay Oberoi, PVSM, AVSM, VSM

16 Lt General MA Gurbaxani, PVSM, AVSM

17 Lt General RK Nanavatty, PVSM, UYSM, AVSM

18 Lt General R K Gaur, PVSM

19 Lt General CA Barretto, PVSM

20 Lt General ML Naidu, PVSM, AVSM, YSM

21 Vice Admiral Madanjit Singh

22 Vice Admiral DB Kapila, PVSM, AVSM, VSM

23 Vice Admiral A Britto, PVSM, AVSM, VSM

24 Air Marshal Vir Narain, PVSM

25 Maj Gen A K Shukla

26 Maj Gen PC Panjikar, VSM

27 Maj General KM Bhimaya

28 Maj General Jose Manavalan, AVSM

29 Maj General Shiv Dev Singh

30 Maj General Mohan Singh

31 Maj General Harsha Kakar

32 Maj General Rajendra Prakash, VSM

33 Maj General GH Israni

34 Maj General Anil Sawhny, AVSM

35 Maj General IJS Dhillon

36 Maj General Kshitin Pandya, AVSM

37 Maj General TK Kaul, PVSM, AVSM, VSM

38 Maj General ML Malik

39 Maj General SG Pitre

40 Maj General SG Vombatkere, VSM

41 Rear Admiral Shankar Mathur

42 Rear Admiral Sudhir Pillai, NM

43 Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak

44 Brig A. A Ramchandani

45 Brig UPS Pathania

46 Brig Vinod Raizada

47 Brigadier VHM Prasad

48 Commodore C Jayaraj

49 Commodore Rajan Mathew, VSM

50 Commodore R Rahmathullah

51 Commodore G Kailath, AVSM, NM, VSM

52 Commodore Dinabandhu Jena

53 Commodore Jal Postwalla

54 Commodore PC Gulati, NM

55 Commodore MS Chahal

56 Air Cmde Sanjay Sharma’

57 Colonel Bharat Haladi

58 Col Sanjeev Choudhary

59 Col Krishna Prasad N G

60 Col Mukesh Trehan

61 Col RP Suhag

62 Col Pankaj Fotedar, VSM

63 Col Vivek Mathur

64 Col Arun Hariharan

65 Col K N Singh

66 Col DM Sharma

67 Col Shantanu Majumdar,

68 Col Gurpinder Singh

69 Col Ramnik Khanna

70 Col Abhay Prasad

71 Col Abhi Chatterjee,

72 Col Manmohan Singh

73 Col. Rajiv Kanwar

74 Col Bharat Kumar

75 Col Jayadev P I

76 Col. Sujit Dutta

77 Col. Lal Kesavan

78 Col. Melwyn D’Souza

79 Col Sanjay Dilwaria

80 Col. K S Kamboj

81 Col Shashi Thoomas Kilo

82 Col K Kataria, SM

83 Col MK Keshwar

84 Col Maniish D Kachhy

85 Col. Aparjeet Nakai

86 Col CMS Babu

87 Col RS Singh

88 Capt (IN) HPS Sodhi

89 Capt (IN) Rakesh Kumar Prabhakar

90 Captain (IN) S Prabhala, VSM

91 Capt(IN) Sandeep Kapoor

92 Group Captain Ashutosh Srivastav (Retd)

93 Gp Capt Rajinder Abrol

94 Gp Capt D. V. Shukla,

95 Gp Capt Philips Jacob, VM

96 Gp Capt Satvinder Singh

97 Gp Capt Deepak Mundade

98 Gp Capt MS Sadanand

99 Lt col Arvind Kumar Singh,

100 Lt Col MS Kanwal, VSM

101 LtCol Sajan Moideen,

102 Lt Col Muruganantham

103 Lt Col Ved Prakash Sharma

104 LtCol R Pankaj

105 Lt Col Shantanu Rishi

106 Lt Col Sanjeev Kumar Gupta

107 Lt Col SPS Panwar

108 Lt Col Neeraj Sharma

109 Lt Col Shantnu Rishi

110 Lt. Col. Gagan Khanna, DE

111 Lt Col Satish Chari

112 Lt. Col Akash Sachan

113 Lt. Col PP Singh

114 Lt Col Sandeep Chandorkar

115 Lt. Col. SS Nath

116 Lt Col JS Patil

117 Lt Col Amit P Mathur

118 Lt Col Jagjit Singh Judge

119 Lt Col RP Shankar

120 Lt Col NM Saksena

121 Lt Col Raghawendra Singh

122 Lt Col Shamsher Manhas

123 Lt Col DN Yadav

124 Lt Col Janak Raj Vatsa

125 Lt Col Rakesh Mehrotra

126 Lt Col Rajeev Rattan Kotwal

127 Cdr MCV Jose

128 Cdr KC Mahesh Giri

129 Cdr Sam T Samuel

130 Cdr Joji Tom Mundakel

131 Cdr S Manrai

132 Cdr P Pattanath

133 Cdr HS Dabas

134 Cdr Soumya Datta

135 Cdr SA Rawool

136 Cdr Sandeep Kumar

137 Cdr RK Srivastava

138 Cdr Shailesh Jain

139 Cdr Sati Taneja

140 Wg Cdr Gopal Taneja

141 Wg Cdr Sanjay Bishnoi

142 Wg Cdr Nilesh Gandhi

143 Wg Cdr Rajiv Gupta

144 Wg Cdr Sudhir Kumar Virulkar

145 Wg Cdr SK Chopra

146 Wg Cdr Sanjay Nijai

147 Wg Cdr Kuldeep Mathur

148 Wg Cdr SK Nair

149 Wg Cdr Prashant Karde

150 Maj K J Singh

151 Maj P Sirur

152 Maj Priyadarshi Chowdhury, SC

153 Sqn Ldr Narendra Prasad Uniyal

154 Capt Sandeep Shekhawat

155 S/ Lt. (IN) RC Jain

156 Lt HS Ahlawat

** These former officers have reportedly stated that they did not sign this letter. However, the officers who compiled the signatures have provided The Wire a copy of the trail mail where they endorse the appeal to the President of India. This copy will be updated as more information is received.

Note: The hyperlinks in the letter to events referred there have been added by The Wire and are not part of the original letter.

Image credit: Jaskirat Singh Bawa, CC-BY-ND 2.0