Former Army chief General VK Singh, who joined BJP after losing a long-drawn legal battle over his age issue in 2014, and went on to become a Union minister of state, is in the line of fire again. Photos of the retired Army chief showing him donning the uniform of Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) are drawing him some heavy criticism.
Though many argue that it is the retired General’s personal choice to don RSS uniform after nearly 42-year military career, as the organisation is not a banned outfit, others view it as a blatant betrayal of core values and traditions of the Army, which clearly are in conflict with the RSS’s ideology. It is also being apprehended that such a precedent may give a push to majoritarian nationalism in defence forces.
Pertinently, a video of Colonel Saurabh Singh Shekhawat, one of the most decorated serving army officers, that was recently shared by Raghu Raman, an ex-army man, showed Shekhawat proudly talking about secular ethos of the Army. At the end of the video he was heard saying that “if we apply this template in the country, most of the problems will be solved.”
The pictures of Singh in RSS attire—which are making rounds on social media—were reportedly taken at the RSS’ 'Rashtroday Sammelan' held in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh on February 26. It saw participation by several Union ministers from western Uttar Pradesh including Mahesh Sharma, General VK Singh, Satyapal Singh, and state ministers Chetan Chauhan and Dharam Singh Saini.
Asserting that Singh has diminished the dignity of the highest rank of the Indian Army post-retirement, Nalin Talwar, who retired from the Air Force and is an executive member of Sabka Sainik Sangarsh Committee, said: “Seeing a retired Chief of Army Staff in the uniform of RSS is disheartening and shameful. He should immediately stop using General with his name. And the retired as well as serving officers and jawans must not salute him any longer if he can’t maintain his neutrality in public life.”
“By donning the uniform of the RSS, which is opposed to a secular state, Gen VK Singh (who tried to manipulate his age, to extend his date of retirement) has disgraced his army uniform,” posted senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan. Others on Twitter expressed similar views.
Social media users—who hardly miss any opportunity to turn anything and everything into humour, drew parallel between former Army Chief’s picture in RSS uniform with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s statement that he made earlier last month in Muzaffarpur, wherein he boasted that his organisation has the ability to prepare an "army" to fight for the country within three days, if such a situation arises.
Against the backdrop of Army chief Bipin Rawat’s comments on increase in Muslim population in several Assam districts, Gen Rawat had said the All India United Democratic Front's growth has been faster than that of the BJP in the 1980s, speculations are rife on social media that after VK Singh, he could be the next to join BJP and RSS. Not surprisingly, Union minister VK Singh had defended General Rawat's remarks.