The unceremonious ouster of the previous Army chief whose straight talking honest approach rattled the Government of India, resulted in the path being cleared for General Bikram Singh to take over the reins of the Army two months ago. With a case pending against the present Chief in the J&K High Court alleging a fake encounter and an enquiry pending pertaining to sexual misconduct by troops under his command in the Congo, he was looked at as an individual who was completely compromised and was expected to do the Government’s bidding with no questions asked. His appointment had at the time been challenged through a PIL filed in the Supreme Court by a former Naval Chief and other senior officers who had pointed out that the appointment of a man with two cases against him would severely dent the Institutional Integrity of the Indian Army. The petition before the apex court had also pointed at the reputation of General Bikram Singh who was seen to be indecisive and dithering when the stone throwing incident went
completely out of control under his watch in the Kashmir Valley. The same scenario now seems to be unfolding in Assam where ethnic violence between Bodo tribals and other communities has left scores dead and hundreds of thousands homeless. From all accounts, the Army leadership failed to move for almost 72 hours even after the civil administration officially appealed for help. This is all the more appalling, as a similar build up of tensions had taken place in 2009 when General VK Singh was the Eastern Army Commander. The Kokrajhar Brigade, with ‘its ear to the ground’ at the time had acted decisively at the first sign of trouble and diffused the tension.
Fiddling while Assam burns, the current Chief of the Army on the other hand seems to be more intent on singling out officers for prosecution who he perceives as having been against him and pro-VK Singh. The manner in which the DV ban imposed on the 3 Corps Commander, Lt Gen Dalbir Suhag, was poste haste reversed to clear him for Army Commander smacks of a pre-conceived agenda and is a classic case of the accused having acquitted themselves. In Army HQ it is no secret that a former
Intelligence head, Colonel Hunny Bakshi, in-charge of covert operations is being hounded to the extent that the man has been admitted in a psychiatric ward; while Brigadier LI Singh who handled the paper work pertaining to the DV ban has been unceremoniously shunted out and trumped up charges of corruption have been brought to bear; the situation is so precarious that even the Minister of Defence, AK Antony, in a recent letter to the Prime Minister admits that there is severe ‘discontent’ within the armed Forces. The General VK Singh saga may now be a closed chapter with the new man holding the baton, but both the Government of India and General Bikram Singh must show that they are capable of decisive, mature leadership, not only in the Northeast but in the rest of the country as well.