General Rawat flouts Army Act with comment on CAA protests

The Section 21 of the Army Act prohibits any Army personnel to attend or address any meeting or to take part in any demonstration. Photo: PTI File.

With just five days for his tenure to get over and buzz about his elevation as India’s first Chief of Defence Staff, Army chief General Bipin Rawat on Thursday (December 26), addressing a health summit, stirred a hornet’s nest criticising those leading violent protests over the new citizenship law, saying leadership was not about guiding masses including students to carry out arson and violence.

General Rawat’s comes despite Section 21 of the Army Act which prohibits any Army personnel to attend or address any meeting or to take part in any demonstration organised by anybody for any political or other purposes. It also bars them from communicating to press or to publish any book relating to political question.

Tearing into the General’s statement, former Navy Chief Admiral L Ramdas said, people in the armed forces must follow the decades-old principle of serving the country and not any political forces. Ramdas said all the three services have an internal code prescribing that they must be neutral and not partisan, adding that these rules have been the bedrock of the armed forces for decades.

“The rule is very clear that we are serving the country and not the political  forces and to express any political views as we have heard today are quite a wrong thing for any serving personnel whether he is the top gun or at the bottom rank. It is not proper,” said Ramdas.

Slamming the General for his statement, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi said leadership is about knowing the limits of one’s office. “It is about understanding the idea of civilian supremacy and preserving the integrity of the institution that you head. This used to happen in Pakistan and Bangladesh,” he said.

Taking a dig at General Rawat’s comments, Yogendra Yadav of Swaraj India said, “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.”

Meanwhile, Congress spokesperson Brijesh Kalappa tweeted, “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!”

Congress leader Digvijay Singh also tweeted, “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?”

Meanwhile, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechuri also slammed Gen Rawat for his comments. “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,” he said.

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