Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday raised concerns about “fake letters” being circulated after the Rashtrapati Bhawan reportedly said it has not received any letter from armed forces veterans.
“Worrying that fake letters being signed by vested interest groups,” Sitharaman told ANI. “Condemnable. Rashtrapati Bhawan has also said that they have not received the letter.”
On Thursday, more than 150 veterans of the Indian armed forces reportedly wrote to President Ram Nath Kovind urging him to stop the politicisation of the military in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections. The letter urged 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”.
However, some of the signatories later denied writing the letter. Former Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army, General Sunith Francis Rodrigues, told ANI: “Don’t know what it [the letter] is all about. All my life, we’ve been apolitical. After 42 years as officer, it’s a little late to change. Always put India first. Don’t know who these people are, classic manifestation of fake news.”
Air Chief Marshal NC Suri said this letter was not written by Admiral L Ramdas and was done by a person called Major Chaudhary. “He has written this and it was coming on WhatsApp and emails,” Suri told ANI. “To put an end to it, I wrote that armed forces are apolitical and support the politically elected government. And no, my consent has not been taken for any such letter. I don’t agree with whatever has been written in that letter. We have been misquoted.”
The Congress, however, cited the letter to demand action against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President Amit Shah and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath.
In the letter, the signatories have referred to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath’s statement calling the Indian Army “Modi’s Sena” during a rally in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, as well as several members of the ruling BJP taking credit for the Balakot air strike.
The signatories also said added that they were concerned by “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”.