Documents declassified in 2009 by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) spoke of a plot by the RSS to foment dissension in the Indian Army. The sensational declassified document is dated June 12, 1950. Presumably sent by the Central Intelligence Agency’s man in New Delhi, it reported that an attempt had been made to assassinate General Cariappa, Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army while on an inspection tour of ‘East Punjab’.
Pointing out that General Cariappa was a ‘South Indian’, it goes on to say that the RSS was “capitalising on the North-South split”.
The document does not explain what the objective of the RSS was and why. But the RSS was banned by the Government on February 4, 1948, days after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. The assassin, Nathuram Godse, had left the RSS to work for the Hindu Mahasabha, a fraternal organisation if not an affiliate.
The issue has come out of the closet following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s blatant attempt in Karnataka to make the Indian Army a political and electoral issue and accuse the first PM Jawaharlal Nehru and the Congress of ill-treating General Cariappa and General Thimayya, both hailing from Karnataka.
While addressing an election rally, Prime Minister Modi said that Nehru and his Defence Minister Krishna Menon had repeatedly insulted General Thimayya during and after the 1948 operation against Pakistan.
Military historians were, however, quick to point out that General Thimayya was a personal favourite of Nehru, was conferred the Padma Bhushan in 1954 and that Nehru had sent him to Korea to head the UN peacekeeping force there.
What is more, General Thimayya was made the army chief by Nehru after superseding two officers senior to him. He was conferred the Padma Bhushan in 1954 when he was a Lt. General and before he became the army chief.
The Prime Minister made another faux pas by claiming that during the Sino-Indian conflict, General Cariappa was ill-treated by the then Government.
General Cariappa was actually made the Army Chief by Nehru in 1949 and was sent as High Commissioner to Australia and New Zealand after his retirement in 1953.
Krishna Menon became the defence minister in 1957 and General Thimayya was persuaded to withdraw his resignation by Nehru in 1959. General Thimayya continued as the Army Chief till 1961 and retired before the Chinese aggression in 1962.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s gross attempt to stoke partisan feelings through a false narrative shocked army veterans. Describing it as unfortunate, several veterans wondered if Prime Minister will also be blamed by rivals for superseding General Bakshi and General Hariz to make General Bipin Rawat the current army chief.