In the mad race to boost circulation and viewer ratings, the media may have, in one go, started the process of demolishing one of the last institutions that has stood rock solid in defence of idea that is India. Unease stems from the damage that the events of the past few months have inflicted on the average Indian soldier.
Following a spate of reports based on half-truths and outright lies, motivated by God alone knows what, we may have done the ultimate disservice to the Indian soldier: Planted the seed of suspicion about his loyalty in the minds of ordinary Indians.
The ultimate dis-service to the Indian soldier
While EVERYBODY defends the right of every media person to report what he or she thinks is right, I am afraid none of us has thought through the consequences of the effect it will have on the psyche of the Indian soldier and, more importantly, the way ordinary Indians will view the Indian Army. In the mad race to boost our circulation and viewer ratings, we may have, in one go, started the process of demolishing one of the last institutions that has stood rock solid in defence of the idea that is India.
Media bashing of the Army on false pretext
On July 11, 2012 one of the most responsible news-channel in India claimed that an officer of Indian Army was caught in a honey trap in a five-star hotel by the counter-intelligence unit of IB. The story was run practically in every news bulletin subsequently with a rare vehemence impacting on the army morale, damaging army’s reputation without verifying the facts before running such a sensitive falsehood. Luckily I was called for a TV debate on the same subject by the Marathi TV channel of the same group of channels. I could put the record state but heard only by the Marathi speaking people.
The TV channel claimed besides the honey trap angle that two laptops have been lost, which possibly contained sensitive information since the officer was posted in Suratgarh sector and was privy to the plans as Second-in-Command of an armoured regiment.
The reputed channel did not bother to investigate these vital angles of the story that took place in May 2012! If the couple were caught by IB in a five star hotel, the IB will hand over the officer to the army authorities and the woman mole to the Delhi Police, as it has no arrest powers. The Delhi Police will have to produce the female mole in the court within twenty four-hours. Also, as she is a foreign national, India will have to inform the Embassy of Bangladesh which in turn will have the right to visit and meet their citizen in custody immediately. The question is, therefore, where exactly is this mole nabbed from the five star hotel in Delhi?
The Indian Army has denied that any physical contact was ever made by the Lieutenant Colonel as he was posted in Suratgarh and the woman concerned was in Bangladesh. What merely happened was while chatting on the Facebook or a social-media site, the officer came in contact with this lady. He possibly subsequently obtained her telephone number in Bangladesh and made a call. All international calls, especially emanating from military areas to foreign countries are likely to be monitored by the counter-intelligence wing of civil intelligence agencies.
Obsolete idea of secrecy
The TV channels should under the following points :-
(a) Foreign national does not need to visit the cantonment to take pictures of military installation. On Goggle Earth all buildings can be seen to the last detail.
(b) These days all through roads pass through cantonments & anybody can photograph military installations.
(c) Info about all weapons is available on the websites of the manufacturing companies. (70 % of the weapons are still imported from abroad.)
It is said that this female mole was also involved earlier in enticing another Indian Army Officer. This officer was doing a course in Staff College, Bangladesh and was brave enough to inform his superiors of the blackmail being conducted by ISI to force him to pass sensitive secrets through this lady. Therefore, the counter-intelligence would be tracking the calls from and to the ISI mole to monitor her activities. This could be another reason that if the officer made a telephone call to Bangladesh, it immediately came under the intelligence scanner.
It is clear that the officer in violation of military laws was conversing on Facebook and possibly subsequently on telephone with a foreigner. IB as a precautionary measure informed the Army and the latter immediately swung into action by ordering a ‘Court of Enquiry’. After the military denial that neither the officer was found in a honey-trap as claimed nor the lost laptops had anything remotely to do with this female mole, who was in Bangladesh while the officer was in Suratgarh. The story of loss of laptops in relation to ISI mole is concocted. Today every middle class family has half their relations abroad. Can one not communicate with them?
Can Social Media Be Controlled ?
The breaking news only ended up maligning the Army for no rhyme or reason and lowering channel’s own credibility. The officer did violate by chatting on the facebook or making a international telephone call to a country considered sensitive by India. The court of enquiry will also possibly come to the conclusion that no secrets were really passed on the facebook and it was just a normal chat that could have subsequently led in a long run to unwanted scenarios. However, this is subject to investigations, but the damage that was done wittingly or unwittingly by leaking this falsehood to a media channel by the intelligence agency and later the channel broadcast without counter verification of the news has unnecessarily damaged the social fabric of the Indian Army.
In the 21st century, it is very difficult for an average middle-class to avoid the social-media interaction. Further, an officer sitting in a remote area will be chatting with his children under a false identity on facebook. There is no way this can be stopped or even monitored.
Similarly, the media should be mature enough to verify again and again such sensitive and damaging broadcast. Particularly in view of the fact that the military and its activities being of sensitive nature do not permit it to defend itself in the public in such slanging matches! While the politician or the bureaucracy can offer counter arguments to defend themselves, the militaries of the world by virtue of their work do not enjoy such privilege – the media must understand and respect this professional limitation.
The Army is India's ultimate weapon from disaster relief in floods, tsunamis and earthquakes, to rescuing an infant Prince from a deep tube well and from quelling rioters in communal strife to being the last resort in internal counter-insurgency operations, the Indian Army has been omnipresent. The Indian Army's versatility, adaptability, selfless attitude and resourcefulness have allowed it to be what it is today: Nation Builders. Viewed in the context of India's immediate and extended neighbourhood, the Indian Army's stellar role stands out in stark contrast to its counterparts in other countries.
As they say, India has an army while the Pakistani army has a nation! More importantly, despite India's increasing dependence on its army to pull its chestnuts out of fire time and again, the Indian Army has scrupulously remained apolitical.
A systematic assault on the Indian Army
The Indian Army's contribution in nurturing and strengthening democracy with all its faults can never be underestimated. It has put down fissiparous and secessionist forces within India at great cost to itself over the last 64-odd years. It has protected India from within and without. While the principle of civilian supremacy over the armed forces is well entrenched and understood in India, what is incomprehensible is the constant chipping away at the military's standing.