Save Secular Fabric from Pre-Partition Termites - The New Indian Express

Save Secular Fabric from Pre-Partition Termites

Published: 12th April 2014 12:44 PM

Last Updated: 12th April 2014 12:43 PM

Azam Khan’s recent statement laced with communal overtones on the Kargil War surprises no discerning observer. It is a symptom of a disease that persists due to the pernicious vote-bank politics of India’s secularists. Khan ranted at a rally that “those who fought for victory in Kargil were not Hindu soldiers, but Muslim soldiers”. This is no off-the-cuff statement, or ‘slip of tongue’ but part of a sinister design to divide the army, communalise it and eventually weaken its solidarity.

The 1.3 million-strong Indian armed forces—one of the world’s largest—are the most disciplined and apolitical fighting forces anywhere in the globe. The people of our country are aware that the Army not only protects our borders but also renders invaluable assistance during natural disasters and emergency-like situations in civil life. During the recent Uttarakhand tragedy, it was the Army that played the most vigorous role in saving the affected in the most difficult circumstances. Even the unprovoked beheading of Indian soldiers by the Pakistani Army and the criminal silence of the political leadership, or rampant corruption in the purchase of weapons since 1948, has failed to demoralise the armed forces or deter them from their duty. India, with a history of communal and caste riots, has often turned to its armed forces to restore order. And even in such sensitive situations, the forces have remained spotless.

The Sachar Committee initiated the project to sow suspicion about the Army and show its recruitment process as religiously biased. Abusaleh Shariff, member secretary of the committee, wrote to then army chief Gen. J J Singh on June 20, 2005, insisting on the provision of separate data of Hindu and Muslim soldiers. Maj. General KPD Sharma, VSM, wrote to Shariff on August 4, 2005: “The Indian Army is a national force owing allegiance to the Constitution of the country. Personnel from all castes, regions and religions are recruited as per their eligibility criteria. The Indian Army has an apolitical character in which people from all communities and regions work together without any distinction on the basis of caste, creed and religion. The most important factor for this achievement by the Indian Army is its group cohesion and camaraderie, without any concern of caste, creed or religion.”

Stung by the reply, Shariff shot off another letter to the private secretary of the Army chief on August 13, 2005: “We fail to see how collecting this information would in any way convey a wrong message to the troops, adversely affecting their well-established cohesion, regimental spirit and morale,” and why “it would not be proper to collect or collate such data. We appreciate your concern for your troops. However, what is disturbing and worrisome is your suggestion that we, in asking this information of you, are in some way contributing towards adversely affecting the morale of Indian troops”. Chairman Rajinder Sachar complained to then Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee on January 2, 2006, saying, “I find that in spite of our repeated requests we have yet not received any data regarding the presence of Muslims in the Indian Army.”

Nevertheless, the committee was successful in stirring a hornet’s nest in the media by leaking the information. Azam Khan has just made his own vitriolic contribution to this diatribe. His credentials are well known. In July 2007, he demanded the creation of a separate Muslim Pradesh from Uttar Pradesh. He and his ilk are behaving like Muslim Leaguers of the pre-Partition days, about whom Sardar Patel had warned the nation in the Constituent Assembly. The pre-Partition termites are again gnawing at the nation’s secular fabric.

Sinha is Hony. Director of India Policy Foundation

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