'No place for homosexuals in Indian Army': General Bipin Rawat sparks row, claims army is conservative

In a remark which is likely to spark controversy, army chief General Bipin Rawat on Thursday said that the India Army is conservative and not above the law, but there is no place for homosexuals in the army. Quoting the army chief, News18 reported.

Homosexuality was decriminalised by the Supreme Court last year, but the Army chief insisted "hum logon ke yahan nahi chalega (all this won’t work here). He accepted that the Army is not above the law but maintained that the Constitution does give it some independence. "We are neither modernised, nor westernised. LGBT issues are not acceptable to us," he said, adding that they would "still deal with the issues under the Army Act".

The Supreme Court order striking off parts of the archaic Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code had been hailed as a milestone moment for LGBTQ rights in the country, but it has failed to translate into any change for the soldiers. Laws governing the three arms of the Indian military bar homosexuality and rule it a punishable offence.

Section 45 the Army Act, 1950, talks about the “unbecoming conduct” of officers without detailing it while Section 46 (a) says any person guilty of any disgraceful conduct of a “cruel, indecent or unnatural kind” will, on conviction by court-martial, face up to seven years in jail.

As far as adultery is concerned, last year, the Supreme Court had struck down a colonial-era law, saying it was unconstitutional, dented the individuality of women and treated them as "chattel of husbands".

Earlier, Rawat had ruffled feathers when he said women were not ready for combat roles. The Army chief had given reasons such as women having the responsibility of raising children and a woman officer feeling uncomfortable at the frontlines or accusing jawans of peeping as she changes clothes.

Rawat was addressing the media as part of Army's annual address to the nation and said, "As far as the situation along the border is concerned, the army has been managing well both on the western and the northern front." Rawat also said that the Indian Army has managed the situation well along the borders with China and Pakistan. Rawat said the situation in Jammu and Kashmir needs to be improved further. "We are only facilitators for peace in Jammu and Kashmir. Violence is being perpetrated by Jammu and Kashmir's own people," he said.

Commenting on the current situation in Jammu and Kashmir, Rawat said it is a bilateral issue between two nations. There is no place for third party intervention. We've to talk on our terms and conditions. Our terms and conditions are very clear. Come to negotiation table and let’s start talking, but shun the gun, give up violence."

"We're adopting hard-power and soft-power approach. But the offer to terrorists — to come overground and look at peace — is always there. Who is getting affected by this(terrorism)? People of Kashmir themselves," he said, adding, "There are around 300 terrorists waiting across the LoC to infiltrate into India."

Speaking on Afghanistan, he said, "If a number of countries are talking to the Taliban, and if India has an interest in Afghanistan, then we should also join the bandwagon." However, he added that the "Taliban analogy" cannot apply to Jammu and Kashmir. "Talks in the state have to be on our terms," he said.

He also claimed that the situation in the North East has been improved by the army.

Calling for unity among army veterans, he said, "I have noticed that there is a kind of disunity among some of our veterans. I think they need to be united. Our veterans are a very strong community which is required to support the mainstream. They can do that if they unite and remain united."

Rawat revealed plans for providing help to disabled veterans. "Now, we have a strong database of soldiers with ‘genuine’ disabilities. We are helping them in every possible way. This year we are focusing on doing away with the disparity among the ‘next of kins’ of the soldiers," he said.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Jan 10, 2019 14:52:59 IST

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