ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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When the Army Crosses the Line

It is the political executive that is to blame since it has been giving the army an expanding role.

The conventional view that contrary to the situation in much of Asia, India’s military steers clear of domestic politics and is under the full control of the executive has taken a hard knock with media reports of some of retired general V K Singh’s activities when he was the army chief. General V K Singh has not denied all the allegations though he has questioned the interpretations of some facts. The flurry of debates has led some to warn against the harm such disclosures and public discussions can do to important institutions (i e, the military) and sensitive relations (i e, between the civilian and military apparatuses). Important and potentially fragile, as such institutions are, it is actually just as well that the issue is now out in the open. Much as we would like to believe that all has been well so far, the fact is that it is the political executive which has been increasingly involving the army (in particular) in domestic affairs which has had its own consequences.

Since the mid-1950s, when the Indian Army was sent to the then eastern Assam to put down the Phizo-led Naga rebellion, the army has been steadily drawn into domestic affairs. (Some would date this involvement to 1948 when the army was sent to Hyderabad to oust the Nizam and simultaneously crush a communist movement for land distribution.) Through the 1960s and 1970s, the involvement of the army in establishing “law and order” in many parts of the North-East only grew. Over the past half century, the army has also been coordinating with and directing the civil administration in this region. From the late 1980s onwards, the army has been involved in a much bigger operation in Kashmir.

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