Coup? What it’s all about
by R Kashyap on 06 Apr 2012 9 Comments

Sensationalism is currently the bedrock of Indian journalism. In keeping with the decline in every aspect of our private and public life, our media has also deteriorated. But even by the known standards of our degradation, the full page story on the front page of the Indian Express (4 April 2012), bearing the byline of the editor in chief himself, strikes a new low. Never in living memory has a single story grabbed the entire front page of a newspaper; a major event like the Bangladesh war might have dominated page one, but there would be other supporting stories on the same issue.


This startling story therefore, was met with disbelief and dismay across the spectrum. Many of us grew up admiring the sterling qualities of late proprietor Ramnath Goenka; he recruited a tribe of daring and outspoken journalists, who made the name of Indian journalism reverberate round the world. Now, the same newspaper has brought us to this pass, bringing out starkly the perils of ‘plant’ journalism, and the truth in the old adage that a lie, once told, can never be retrieved.


Shekhar Gupta, one of the co-writers of the news item, formally refrained from accusing the Army under its present chief Vijay Kumar Singh of an Attempted Coup; but there were loads of innuendoes that this was the intention of so-called un-notified troop movement on the night of 16 January 2012.


If the intent was to ensure the immediate sack of Gen Singh – to augment a previous demand by the NDA’s national security adviser Brajesh Mishra who inexplicably received a Padma Vibhushan from the UPA, allegedly for reasons of proximity to its reigning monarch – Gupta should have paused before leaping without looking.


Printing almost 11 weeks after the alleged episode, Gupta should have asked himself – and his sources – that if the danger of a coup indeed existed at the time, why had Government not asked the General to resign after it was aborted? Alternately, why had it not either relieved him from the charge by asking the next man to take over, or why had it not just sacked him?


Also, why was Gupta unaware that the website had carried a factual account of this same army manoeuvre on 13 March 2012, which said Army had discovered many lacunas in its logistical preparations, and was rectifying them? This alone would have cautioned him to abandon his so-called story.


But Gupta and his colleagues were probably too beholden to their source(s) to say no – and delivered a command performance. Its success depended upon the readers of his newspaper falling for the fable. But the Indian people have always had the uncanny knack of skirting propaganda and arriving at the truth by their own means. So it was the Great Editor who made a fool of himself, for he could not fool the people.


This article in not concerned with the operational matters mentioned in the story; that is for the experts. But some points may be noted. Delhi has an army cantonment with around 30,000 soldiers and the distance between the cantonment and Raisina Hill is not far. So if a section of the Army does decide to execute a coup, all the numbers required are already stationed within a few hundred meters of the Prime Minister’s office. The security of South Block is predominantly under the special forces of the Indian army, who are armed to teeth. So why does anyone need forces from Agra? Did Gupta hallucinate while watching a movie on 1857?


Moreover, one should not forget that at the time this alleged ‘C’ took place, the Army chief was on a weak wicket among his peers, with news that government was looking at other senior army commanders to replace him. Surely Gen V.K. Singh would know he had little chance of getting support for a coup, and that the dangers of betrayal were higher than the chances of success?


Actually, the story is very defamatory of the General and his sterling qualities as demonstrated through a 40-year career. He deserves a sincere apology. To their credit, by instantly debunking the story, the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister made it clear that the Government would not abide by such character assassination.


A mind-boggling point in the story is that the defence secretary is supposed to have ordered the Director General of Military Operations to ask the units to go back to the barracks. And the DGMO complied.


What are we to conclude from this? First, that the powers-that-be in New Delhi were immediately convinced that the General was initiating a coup, and instead of confronting him, decided to bypass him to avert the coup.


Second, the Home Minister or Home Secretary called the Defence Secretary (but NOT the Defence Minister) and told him that they somehow knew that the DGMO was not part of coup plan. So was DGMO the person who alerted them, and is that why he accepted a direct order from a civilian (!). What is this nonsense?


Actually, the timing of the Indian Express story – and not the timing of the alleged coup – is worth pondering over. The story was published when the Defence Minister was going to meet the press after the induction of INS Chakra. It did not appear a day before when the Army Chief was with the Minister. Perhaps it was an attempt to shatter the camaraderie that the Minister and Services had shown towards each other during the Defence Acquisition Council early this week.


Who is behind this news? Who benefits from this? The leak of the Army Chief’s letter to the Prime Minister to the press almost prompted a large section of the political and strategic circle to call for the General’s dismissal, but better sense prevailed and the real culprit of defence acquisition, the Defence Ministry and the defence PSUs, came under scrutiny. Best of all, the Minister was finally forced to take serious decisions in the Services’ favour.


It is said that the intelligence agencies alerted the government about this movement. But WHO ordered the intelligence agencies to keep such minute tabs over the forces, so as to be able to discern whether troop movement is authorised or not? Who benefits from the ouster of the Army Chief? The answer is not easy.


It seems that a major political lobby in India is not comfortable with the existing system of governance, and is inspiring its own innovations. Thus, for the first time in Indian history, the press secretary to the PM does not directly report to the PM but to his principal secretary. Hence one should not be surprised if General Singh’s letter was leaked by the PMO, without the knowledge of the PM, in order to create an environment against the Chief.


Home Minister P Chidambaram is a close confidant of the UPA chairperson. The intelligence agencies work under him, and reportedly discovered and aborted the army march. The IB is investigating the Army Chief letter leak case. The IB was also asked to investigate the alleged snooping in Mr. Antony’s office, allegedly by military intelligence.


Strangely, the IB was kept OUT when the alleged snooping in the offices of Mr Pranab Mukherjee was detected by a private detective agency! The episode was publicized to make some point, and then the matter was firmly closed.


So, we are told to believe that the Union Home Ministry and the IB are defending India from a rogue army. Is it a rocket science to understand that a lobby or mafia wants this chief to go?

Our embedded media fell in line, but the best laid plans of mice and men...



The author is a keen observer of political drama; the views expressed are personal


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