Gen VK Singh is a hero for fighting the Enemy Within

We ought to be celebrating Gen VK Singh for shaking up the system and shocking us out of our stupor. Why then are we all running him down?

Vembu March 30, 2012 05:35:39 IST
Gen VK Singh is a hero for fighting the Enemy Within

It must be abundantly clear why Gen VK Singh today finds himself in an unholy mess. He has violated the Omerta Code of the Power Circle. The one that dictates that once you’ve made it to the posh club of power insiders, you don’t talk about some things, such as the gravy train that everyone rides on and feeds off.

In the posh clubs where liveried waiters hover like friendly ghosts, and where moustachioed Generals and netas in their pressed bandhgalas and babus in their pin-stripe suits guffaw and talk pussy over their Patiala pegs, it is taboo to talk about money. Particularly the kind of obscene money that everyone gets a fair share of when deals are finalised.

Into that posh club, Gen VK Singh has blundered in like a barefoot dehati.

And, worse, he declines gratuitous invitations from fellow officers for him to become “one of them” by getting suited-booted up, refuses to clamber aboard their gravy train and help himself to the goodies – and, horror of horrors, goes so far as to initiate investigations into their own conduct unbecoming of officers. All this merely because they played by the “jobs for the boys” rules of the Power Club, and feathered their own nests.

Gen VK Singh is a hero for fighting the Enemy Within

If what it takes to get us even talk about the colossal mess we are in is for him to shake the government and our civil society out of our stupor, more power to you, Gen Singh. AFP

And now, he has begun focusing his Sauron eye on serving officers, who are in line to become Army Chief. Is the man mad, they wonder. How did we ever let him into the club, they fret.

Of course, there have been – and continue to be – honest men in the uniformed services, just as there are honest men in politics and in the civil service. But even when they themselves are scrupulously clean, they have all along abided by the Omerta Rule: even when they knew that other officers and netas and babu were pigging out on the trough, they chose to look the other way. Why blow the whistle and invite trouble, and risk losing their honour and their well-earned pension and the prospect of being invited to head some committee or a thinktank in the future?

Which is why the retired Lieutenant General whom Gen VK Singh accused of offering him a bribe cannot get his head around the fact that there are still a few good men in uniform. “Army chiefs before you have accepted money, and army chiefs after you will, so why do you not?” he asked Gen VK Singh, when he made the offer of a Rs 14 crore bribe.

Today, Gen VK Singh, close to retirement and perhaps sensing that he has been robbed of his dignity in the battle with the government over his date of birth, has gone rogue. He has broken the Omerta Code of silence and is telling the world of the horrors he has seen within the Army fortresses. And it isn’t a pretty picture.

Fellow officers are shaking their heads and tut-tutting into their Scotch on the rocks. Why rock the boat, they ask him. Why invite inglorious attention to what we’ve tucked away out of sight –and put on a show of glorious make-believe? Why, oh why, can’t you just look away?

The political establishment in its entirety is equally appalled. The General has become a guerilla warrior, they thunder. He ought to abide by the code, yield to civilian supremacy, and either stay silent or be sacked. In the same way that they rubbished Team Anna’s campaign against corruption last year and continued with their rollicking party in Parliament, they have ganged up against Gen VK Singh. In words eerily reminiscent of last year (in the context of Anna Hazare’s campaign), Lalu Prasad Yadav wonders if Gen VK Singh is angling for a career in politics.

And what of the media and sections of civil society? They too have their ‘angles’: Gen VK Singh’s motives are suspect, they say. Why did he not act in all the time that he was in office, why now, they wonder. In the same way that they turned on Team Anna and made mincemeat of that campaign, they are shredding Gen VK Singh to pieces – when, in fact, the focus then and now should have been on the sky-high corruption that they exposed.

It’s a bizarre, perverted world if we are asked to tolerate the status quo, even when we know it to be venal, merely because the alternative – of shaking things up — makes us queasy. Because it violates Section 2, Subsection 3(a) of the club rules.

For sure, Gen VK Singh has gone rogue. But I say: more power to you, Gen Singh. Even if, as some have suggested, you are doing it only for megalomaniacal reasons — or out of a sense of pettiness. Even though I can’t quite understand why you waited until now to say these things, I’m just plain glad you are saying them at least now.

Any self-respecting civilian government or military force or civil society ought to be celebrating Gen VK Singh for being a true warrior and taking on the Enemy Within. The problems that he highlights are our collective problems. Those problems have turned us into a banana republic far more than anything Gen Singh has done in severing the cosy, comfortable, clubby relationship between the military and the civilian administration.

If what it takes to get us to even talk about the colossal mess we are in is for Gen Singh to shake the government and our civil society out of our stupor, more power to him!

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