NEW DELHI: Army chief General Dalbir Singh’s affidavit in the Supreme Court accusing his former boss Gen VK Singh (now MoS for External Affairs) of scuttling his promotion has triggered a war of opinion among the army ranks in the social media.
A worried Army brass is keeping a close watch on messages circulating in chat groups such as WhatsApp, fearing some of them could have been manufactured across the border to create dissensions within.
Several messages, some questioning Army chief General Dalbir Singh’s credentials to lead the world’s third-largest army, have been widely circulated. His administrative decisions and comments were brutally criticised. Messages about his Australia visit during the peak of the Jammu and Kashmir turmoil, gifting awards to his brother and “promoting” Major Generals from his regiment have been creating a strong buzz in the corridors of Army Headquarters.
A message signed ‘Jai Hind Ki Sena’ says General Singh “now reduces gallantry awards for all promotions. He failed all Staff College entrance exams”.
However, several veterans countered these messages by saying that it is “disgusting to note such officers have infiltrated our great Army and who indulge in grotesque shameful behaviour undermining the image of that very Army in which they serve and earn their livelihood. The post is full of falsehoods, which the concerned person has attempted to pass off under the cover of anonymity”.
A prompt message from the higher-ups in Army Headquarters warned: “There is a slanderous post against present Army chief going around in some WhatsApp groups. It contains falsehoods and series of unsubstantiated allegations. Obviously, this post has been initiated by some inimical individuals with intention of subversion. Kindly pay no heed and delete the post without forwarding. Army HQ monitoring concerned groups and as per current policy those posting such material or forwarding such posts and even administrators of such groups can be penalised.”
War in the virtual world started after the August 18 affidavit by the Army chief in the Supreme Court in response to a petition moved by retired Lieutenant General Ravi Dastane. In the affidavit, which General Singh claimed to have filed in his personal capacity, he alleged that General V K Singh (now a junior minister in the Ministry of External Affairs) had tried to stall his promotion and to “arbitrarily punish” him for “extraneous reasons”.
A similar divide was visible in the Army when its promotion policy was challenged in the apex court. A rift between officers from the Infantry and other arms were expressed by officers on social networking sites by using pseudo names and fake identities.
When the Army chief decided to donate one day’s salary of all ranks to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund for the J&K flood victims, it created a similar kind of uproar within the force. General Singh faced the ire of several serving officers last year who moved the Controller of Defence Accounts challenging their chief’s decision.
The Army’s new policy on social media states that the key for a soldier is to understand that his conduct will have to be similar to the one that they have offline—reasonable, discipline and responsible. Just because social media can afford a semblance of anonymity, serving personnel should not be under a mistaken notion that they can get away with insubordination or indiscipline online.