Recently, a retired Army officer, ex-Major General of the Ordnance Corps, SP Sinha made certain unfortunate comments that gave Pakistan the perfect opportunity to push its anti-India propaganda. The episode exposes how loose comments by Army veterans can create an avoidable embarrassing situation for both the Indian Army and the country at large. Speaking at a high decibel television debate, the retired Army officer screamed, “Maut ke badle maut (death for death), balatkar ke badle balatkar (rape for rape)”. His comments invited sharp criticism from several ex-servicemen of the Indian Army. Lt. General (retd.) Vinod Bhatia took to Twitter rebuking the ex-Major General and said, “Insensitive & unfortunate. I am sure he has not been anywhere near the frontline or in contact in CT ops ever. Easy to talk in AC studio, undo all the good work and sacrifices of the army. Extreme views of an individual who is known to make obnoxious statements for momentary fame.”
Insensitive & unfortunate. I am sure he has not been anywhere near d frontline or in contact in CT ops ever. Easy 2 talk in AC studio, undo all the good work and sacrifices of the army. Extreme views of an individual who is known to make obnoxious statements for momentary fame.
— Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia (@Ptr6Vb) November 17, 2019
Pakistan has unsurprisingly seen the ex-Army officer’s loose comments as an opportunity to push its nefarious anti-India propaganda. Pakistan President, Arif Alvi tried to take advantage of his comments and said, “Imagine the fate of women in Indian Occupied Kashmir where such men wield power with total impunity.” The comment therefore really maligns the image of the Indian Army as vested interests try to use this comment to push their anti-India narrative with respect to Kashmir.
Disgraceful. Maj Gen(R) SP Sinha a leader of BJP advocates rape of Kashmiri women on TV. Imagine the fate of women in Indian Occupied Kashmir where such men wield power with total impunity. Indian forces have used rape as a tool according to HRW report https://t.co/tfKDIjWLib https://t.co/7NBCJ9WvB1
— Dr. Arif Alvi (@ArifAlvi) November 17, 2019
What makes the situation much more delicate is the fact that television and news channels see an opportunity in inviting the ex-servicemen to their debate programmes. Moreover, the rise of social media has also led to the emergence of a channel where the retired Army officers can express their viewers in the public domain. An overwhelming majority of the Army veterans are disciplined, patriotic and nationalist in keeping with the ethos of the Indian military and other security forces. However, it is the comments of a few Army-men which are highlighted by those representing an anti-India agenda. In such circumstances, it becomes inevitable that the Army formulates a strategy to regulate the conduct of its veterans.
The Indian Army has also realised how loose comments can bring a bad name. As per The Print, a senior officer in the Army Headquarters said, “He is a retired officer and does not come under the purview of the Code of Conduct for serving personnel or the Army Act.” Army sources said that such remarks by an officer “who has never commanded soldiers in anti-terror operations or taken part in any such operations in the Valley” sully the image of the force. Army Chief Bipin Rawat has also told the retiring officers, “Retired Officers are Brand Ambassadors. Retiring officers carry forward the image of Indian Army and become brand ambassadors of The Indian Army. Their good conduct will open up avenues for future retirees,” at a retiring officer’s seminar in Delhi.
He also spoke about a Code of Conduct for the ex-servicemen and said, “It is the aspiration of veterans only. Many veterans undergo a status change which they prefer to display in social life. This has resulted in dissonance in some institutions. We need to start discussing it to find a solution in-house. The answer will come from in-house. Places like Regimental Centers are good to seek views for the same.”
The Army is said to be in the process of finalising a Code of Conduct for its retired officers. Currently, the Army Act covers only serving Army officers. As per Army Headquarters’ plan, all serving Army officers will be required to sign an undertaking by virtue of which they will be governed by a Code of Conduct after their retirement. Retired Army officers do retain their military ranks after retirement, but their actions are covered by the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as they do not fall within the ambit of the Army Act. However, it is not yet clear whether the Code of Conduct to be introduced by the Army would contain penal provisions. As per a senior Army officer quoted by The Print, the comments and language of the nature made by former Major General, SP Sinha is the reason behind Army’s plans to introduce a “Code of Conduct”.
The Indian Army is indeed one of the most respected institutions in India. Known and respected for its virtues of courage and discipline, the nation harbours high expectations with those who retire from the Indian Army. Therefore, in such circumstances, it is only appropriate that the Indian Army is looking towards formulating a Code of Conduct that will govern the conduct of veterans in line with the ethos and glorious tradition of the Indian Army and other military and security forces of the country.