The man, who, by innuendo in the Indian Express article, was the reason that the government was spooked about a possible ‘C’ word, has dismissed the article as ‘absolutely stupid’.
Gen Singh’s remarks are the last remarks of import in context of the non-coup. The government, as represented by the prime minister and the defence minister, has dismissed the Indian Express report. Army spokespersons have underlined that the troop movements which form the heart of the Indian Express story were ‘routine’. Interestingly, the main opposition party, the BJP, dismissed the coup angle as well, choosing to attack the government on the fact that “the relationship between the Army and the political leadership of the country is at an all-time low.”
Now that all the players in the drama have spoken (including the prime minister, in a welcome departure from his usual silence), it’s getting clearer that the Indian Express is not emerging from this story smelling of roses.
The Hindu, in an editorial, had this to say about the Indian Express story. “What remains indisputable from the facts presented by the newspaper and by other information in the public domain is that the civilian and military establishments in India are not communicating properly and have become distrustful of each other…why was the report, which consumed the entire front page and was accompanied by a sensational headline, so overplayed? In doing so, it has run the risk of being read for innuendos and insinuations rather than for the facts — which is exactly what has transpired given the reaction to the story.”
Late yesterday, as the media tripped over each other in rehashing and analysing the IE story, the paper put out a clarification. “There are some in the government and outside who have questioned the report, even calling it “disturbing” and “baseless”. All this, even those comments that attribute false motives, are, we believe, part of a necessary debate. ‘The Indian Express‘ stands by the report,” the clarification said.
No one, not even those at the centre of the storm, the government and the army, is debating the facts – and these are few. To that extent, Indian Express can ‘stand by’ the report.
The problems that the majority of critics of the Indian Express story have are not with the facts contained in the story, but with the analysis of the facts. The interpretation of the events on the night of 16 January could have ranged from a routine exercise to a near coup. The fact (the reporting of which Indian Express can stand by) is that there were troop movements. Indian Express chose to interpret the movements as a coup attempt, notwithstanding their disclaimer and warning to readers that this was a ‘C’ word they do not use themselves.
Does the Indian Express stand by the interpretation and analysis as well? If they do, they are, willy-nilly, rejecting the opinions of the prime minister, the defence minister, the army chief and the main opposition party on the issue.
And that, as Gen VK said, would be ‘absolutely stupid’.
Indian Express could so easily have focused on the worrying aspect of the trust deficit between the government and the armed forces – and headlined it as sensationally. The headline would have been rooted in fact and not in surmise and interpretation. Indian Express would have been the toast of the nation, and the opposition would have gleefully waved the front page at waiting journalists and used it as another stick to beat the Congress with.
And no one would have used the ‘S’ word to describe their report.