Wednesday, February 1, 2023
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Veterans on TV news have shamed Indian armed forces enough. Time to board out rotten apples

It was not at all surprising to see Pakistan use retd Maj Gen S.P. Sinha’s remarks to push its fake narrative about what goes on in Kashmir.

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Breaking his silence over retired Major General S.P. Sinha’s deplorable endorsement of rape and murder as revenge tactics for the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits during a debate on TV9 Bharatvarsh, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat said Thursday that “retiring officers carry forward the image of Indian Army and become brand ambassadors of the forces”.

There is no doubt that the veterans, many of whom have called out the retired officer for his “obnoxious” remarks, are indeed the brand ambassadors of the armed forces. And so, it is incumbent upon them to board out the rotten apples who bring shame to not just the community but also the uniform that they once wore.

But are veterans alone to be blamed? The answer is no. The armed forces and the Indian media are equally responsible for the behaviour of retired officers like S.P. Sinha.


Also read: SP Sinha Kashmir rape comment: Is it time for strict code of conduct for military veterans?


Studio Rambos

With the advent of social media and noisy TV debates, a very troubling trend has come to the fore.

Some of the veterans, including senior officers, are literally jostling to get ahead of each other and become known for making the most controversial statements.

TV channels love it because retired officers, some of whom even wear their regimental caps, yell down those opposing them in the crudest form possible. These studio debates are often a ‘tamasha’.

At times, these veterans look like they have launched a nuclear war against Pakistan from TV studios. Earlier, their outbursts used to be limited to Pakistan and defence issues, but a questionable set of veterans today speak on every issue, including those that are politically sensitive.

I understand their eagerness to spurt out banalities. TV channels love them and therefore try to invite as many veterans to as many shows as possible. For the retired officers, this translates into a welcome earning opportunity and a spike in their income.

I know of some veterans who maintain a register of shows that they have attended, and when. They don’t appear on new shows until they have been paid for the previous one.

One retired Major General is known to appear on two TV channels at the same time. He puts on two sets of earpieces and turns into an absolute Rambo.

Seeing their conduct during these high-pitched debates, one wonders how these officers ever managed to climb up the steep and narrow ladder in the armed forces and get promoted.


Also read: Ex-Army officer apologises for his ‘rape for rape’ remark on TV, says he was disturbed


A part of the blame also lies with the armed forces. Those appearing on TV debates, including the most vicious ones, are regularly briefed by their relevant force headquarters on important issues and current matters because in most cases, officers have retired several years ago and have no knowledge of the existing scenario.

The forces argue that it is better to at least keep these retired officers up to date rather than hear them yelling whatever comes to their mind on critical issues.

However, a set of retired officers with a habit of making news thrive on these interactions with the headquarters and the regular updates they receive. The force headquarters should develop a practice of actually telling the veterans appearing on news channels for debates that their actions shame not just the forces but India as a whole.

Consider the latest episode involving retired Major General S.P. Sinha for instance. The veteran’s conduct gave a perfect opportunity to Pakistan to push its propaganda against the Indian Army and support its fake narrative about what happens in Kashmir.

Pakistan President Arif Alvi chanced upon the “Balatkar ke badle balatkar” remark, saying in a tweet: “Imagine the fate of women in Indian Occupied Kashmir where such men wield power with total impunity.”

Unwittingly, the retired officer gave Pakistan a weapon of propaganda even though speakers like him claim they are only countering Pakistani propaganda.

But such crass remarks and unsolicited outbursts are not limited to TV studios. Many officers are active on social media like Twitter and routinely turn into trolls to counter those who oppose them. They end up posting uncouth, bigoted and communal statements, causing embarrassment to the Indian armed forces. Equally concerning is the manner in which some of the serving officers communicate on various WhatsApp groups.


Also read: Indian Army’s new cadre review will create more problems than resolve


Media an equal culprit

Besides the veterans who forgo all forms of civility when indulging in arguments on studio debates or on social media and the armed forces for not keeping a check on them, India’s news media, especially TV channels, are to be equally blamed for the sad state of affairs today. They not only host such officers but the anchors actively engage in silencing the sane voices among the veterans.

The situation today is such that many veterans I know refuse to appear on certain news channels because they abhor their style of debate and news presentation.

It is important for India’s TV news channels to look within and understand the harm that they are causing – all the while projecting themselves as “nationalistic channels”.

Many have praised the TV9 Bharatvarsh anchor who was moderating the infamous debate for opposing the remarks of the retired Major General. If the channel was really concerned, then it should have censored the remark while telecasting the debate, clarifying that the comments were bleeped out because of their objectionable nature. But the channel didn’t. After all, at the end of the day, it is all a ‘tamasha’. A sad ‘tamasha’.

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11 COMMENTS

  1. Maj Gen SP Sinha was in the Army Ordinance Corps which is not even an arm. It would be interesting to know what is the closest posting he had to the border. Further the channels deliberately want such shouting generals to dish out a tamasha. While statements were made in intemperate language, the fact remains we must extract revengeful justice for what Pakistan did to Kashmir and some Kashmiri Muslims did to Hindus. Why was the media quiet from 1987 to 1990 when a genocide cum looting was done? Ask those who suffered.

  2. We do have some exceptions like Maj Gens Sinha and GD Bakshi who spout venom after a few appearances on TV as ‘Experts’. They are a disgrace to the Army. I wonder how they ever reached so high a rank.
    We now have a Chief who is controversial and trying to make a break with traditions that have made our Armed Forces so apolitical and efficient. He keeps shooting his mouth off on fighting a two and a half front War when there are serious deficiencies for even a one front war.
    His latest thrust on laying a Code of Conduct for veterans to include punitive actions on defaulters is the most idiotic one. He doesn’t seem to be aware of the Constitutional rights of retired personnel who are now civilians. It seems like a reaction to all the criticism against him by veterans on the social media. We have to suffer him for another 3 years because he will surely be made the CDS.

  3. I think time has come when TV channels must know that every retired army / Navy / Air Force officer was not an expert on military tactics / strategy and conduct of operations . Those who have never dealt with insurgency / militancy are not qualified to comment . In the instant case , SP Sinha is an ordinance officer —- who had no idea of insurgency . How does he become an expert on conduct of counter militancy operations? Also , a higher rank does not make a veteran an expert —- think of Liddel Hart — a capt who taught the generals . In India, particularly in media , there was a misconception that Generals think better than Colonels .

  4. Aim of so called code is not to check people like SP Sinha or GD Bakshi. The COAS is more worried about criticism of his stupid policies which have harmed the cause of welfare of veterans. COAS and also Govt of the day does not want anyone to take on them for their shortcomings. Comments by veteran on Moth eaten OROP, Taxing Disability pensions, challenging cases in Supreme Court where AFT Grants pensions, not removing anomalies of 7th CPC, degradation of status of Army Officers etc etc are not liked by Govt of the day and COAS being their chosen man.
    Aim of Code is to shut the mouth of veterans who raise just issues affecting the veterans.
    SP Sinha etc will continue to spew venom on TV debates. … that Code will not affect them.

    • Sp Sinha and GD Bakshi belong to a shouting brigade who think shouts win the argument . The fault lay with media and a TV channels who get such people for debates . There is a need to accredit veterans for expert opinions in media . Every Tom, Dick and Harry can not be an expert on conduct of counter militancy operations —- as every combat arm veteran can not be an expert of logistics or technical issues . At the time of retirement , selected colonels and above should be classified as experts on their disciplines . Everyone must not be called by media for comments

  5. TV first allowed the General to say what he wanted and then attempting to control him is hypocritical to core. Why not TV channel make them to sign a code of conduct and any who breaks it should be depanlised then and there.

  6. Some years ago – before veterans began appearing like mushrooms after a shower on TV – I saw General V P Malik on CNN and was impressed by the authority with which he spoke. Maj Gen G D Bakshi made his appearance at the time of the controversy over the Chief’s date of birth, has carved a niche for himself, a natural partner for Arnab Goswami. There is no need for veterans to be an almost daily feature on our TV screens. India is still not at war. Those who appear, whatever their point of view, should help maintain our respect for the armed forces. 2. I have always believed military officials should not be in politics. Would now add diplomats to that list.

  7. Veterans only tried to prove what is already known in army with conviction that army is a collection of clever people commanded by most clever and intelligent.

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