India has para commando battalions or the special forces in Army parlance. When General VK Singh was the Army chief a joint secretary level officer in then, PMO promoted a theory lapped that on a cold December night one mechanised battalion was made to move towards Delhi for a coup. Imagine one battalion of 800 strength conducting a coup in an Army of 1.3 million? Now at the age of 86 when most of the people go senile Lt General Hoon, former Army Commander Western Command is writing a book claiming that Army was planning a coup against Rajiv Gandhi Government in 1987. He is more generous and is using three para commando battalions –2400 officers and men against 1.3 million men.
Significantly unlike Pakistani Army which keeps staging a coup at the drop of a hat, Indian Army right from its inception has been brought up by the British in an apolitical atmosphere. Every officer and soldier take oath of allegiance for the safety of the country while Pakistani Army takes an oath for the safety of Islam. In other words, while Indian Army is for the safety of the country Pakistani Army is for the safety of Islam which is followed by 60 countries of the world and believes in Muslim Brotherhood. Religion is the most important entity for every soldier because the profession of arms involves life and death.
Coups are common in mono-religious armies but not possible in hetro-religious Armies. In Indian Army, all four religions namely Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism and Christianity are followed. The last right of soldiers are performed based on their religion. In such heterogeneous armies, coups are an impossibility. It is something even General Hoon should know.
General Hoon retired in early 1987. At that time, I was commanding a Battalion .We all had just finished the biggest fully fledged war Game EX BRASS TACKS, largest ground exercise ever held by the Indian Army in Rajasthan Desert. At that time, Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minster and Arun Singh was the defence minister. We all were praise for Rajiv Gandhi because he stood firm on holding such a large-scale war game despite Pakistan threatening us with war. We never heard even a whiff of such an eventuality like a coup. If Lt General Hoon had such an apprehension then why did he keep quiet to tell the truth now when he is 86 years old? Maybe he needs a psychiatric check that it has not been overwhelmed by loss of memory or senility?
Lt General Hoon says that at that time General Sunderji was the Army Chief and Lt General Rodricks who became next Army Chief after the retirement of Gen Sunderjee was the Vice Chief. Both these generals were the best two generals produced by the Indian Army. Hoon says both were involved in this coup plot that was supported by some disgruntled Congress top politicians. He says that he had told about this coup plot to Rajiv Gandhi. If we accept this hypothesis of Hoon then was Rajiv Gandhi and his advisors so knave that they made General Rodricks the next Army Chief despite knowing his involvement in this coup plot? This does not happen even in a banana republic.
There is no doubt that Gen Hoon has resorted to cheap sensationalism to promote his book. However, he has sullied the name of the proud and unblemished Indian Army where no such cheap thought exists like a coup, nor it is possible. It is necessary that a defamation case must be filed against him by the Army or if Army does not want to do then Army Veterans. He must be made to prove his insinuations and should not be allowed to get away like this. We must not forget that in this defamation feelings of 3.6 million veterans and 1.3 million serving soldiers of armed forces are involved who have staked their life for their beloved country India. General or no General Hoon must be tried and punished.
Brigadier Arun Bajpai is a Defence and Strategic Analyst.