General VK Singh: Ungentlemanly officer

Feb 26, 2014, 07:58 IST | Aakash Banerjee

Contrary to usual work practices, military personnel are allowed to keep their titles even after retirement

Aakash BanerjeeContrary to usual work practices, military personnel are allowed to keep their titles even after retirement.

This exception is made because defence personnel continue to uphold the tenets and values of the armed forces, long after their badges and buckles have gone; or as the famous saying goes, ‘You may have left the army but you’re an officer for life’.

It’s a philosophy that is beautifully enshrined in the Army’s own recruitment portal, joinindianarmy.nic.in “Even after laying down the uniform, Army officers continue to have the status of the most respected citizens of our country.

General VK Singh
General VK Singh

This, added to their ingrained code of conduct and ethical values, enable them to occupy a special social niche in society. His do or die attitude and mental agility ensures that he never really grows into old age, but continues to contribute and thus remain a valued member of society.”

Unfortunately the recent utterances and actions of the former Army Chief have ripped apart this code of conduct that defense personnel live by. By terming journalists of a prominent daily as ‘presstitutes’, the former Chief was neither displaying high ethical values nor honorable conduct.

One therefore finds it impossible to address the former Chief of Army Staff as anything other than Mr. VK Singh, because he’s certainly failed to live up to his military title of a General. Here’s why: Not us, only me: Ever since the ugly age row began, Singh has been fighting a lonely battle for his office, his rank, his honour and his ego; it never really was about the army or putting the right systems in place.

Soon after his retirement, when he flirted with Anna Hazare and then the BJP, it was all about his personal ambition; no concrete army related issues were championed by him. I shudder to imagine how Singh would have acted in the trenches, in the middle of a battlefield, would he have risked his life to save that of his wounded buddy? Or would he have thought about his survival only?

No courage under fire: Just say ‘troop movement’ and Singh gets all charged up; even though the concerned article (now validated by former DGMO, Lt Gen A K Choudhary) said that the government that was ‘spooked’ by the routine troop movement and that the former General had nothing to do with it!

The Army, we are told, builds your character, drills courage into you and infuses a never say die sprit; Singh on the other hand displays none of these qualities. One can imagine the former General in a war theatre; ditching strategy and blindly charging at the enemy because they dared to come out of the bunker.

Ungentlemanly Officer: Humour the delusions of a former General and believe for a moment that a section of the media (and government) was out to ‘cook’ him. But does that merit the former Chief of Army forgetting his basic manners? What example does it serve to scores of men in uniform who are being trained to become Gentlemen Officers? That it’s OK to akin journalists with prostitutes?

That virtuous behaviour is only for the sissies? That reason and substantive proof are for the weak kneed? Singh comes across as a man with scant restraint; a man who would avenge Pakistan beheading and brutalizing our soldiers by a greater degree of brutalisation of Pakistani soldiers.

Tactically Novice: Despite the Press Council of India rebuking him in the strongest possible terms for describing journalists as ‘presstitutes’ he’s lost none of his bluster, his spokesperson rejecting any possibility of an apology, rather brazenly defending the use of the term ‘presstitutes’ since it can be found in the dictionary.

It would have been far more gentlemanly of him to withdraw the slur and apologise to the concerned journalists. With this kind of strategic thinking, I am glad that we didn’t go to war with a General like VK Singh.

As for the dictionary, the word pimp is also found easily in the concise editions; but the media doesn’t use that sort of terminology for scores of army men who sold out our secrets to ‘friendly’ neighbours.

- Akash Banerjee is the author of Tales from Shining and Sinking India

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