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Veterans’ letter to president: Major who sent petition tweets emails by ex-chiefs ‘endorsing’ appeal; ex-air chief Suri says misunderstanding

Major Priyadarshi Chowdhury, a retired infantryman of the Sikh Regiment and the officer who sent a letter from “a group of senior veterans” to President Ram Nath Kovind protesting the “use of the armed forces for political purposes”, has countered statements made by two senior servicemen who denied signing the document. Major Chowdhury told Firstpost he is in possession of emails from Air Chief Marshal NC Suri and General SF Rodrigues — both of whom once headed their respective wings of the armed forces — endorsing the message to President Kovind.

One of the two veterans, Air Chief Marshal Suri, told Firstpost his remarks in the email to which Major Chowdhury refers have been misconstrued and read out of context.

Major Chowdhury, the national coordinator of the joint jawans and kisan movement, tweeted screenshots of these emails on 12 April. He also responded to a statement issued by the president’s office denying receiving such a letter. Major Chowdhury, in his tweet, included a screenshot of his email to the president’s office.

This email was sent to three mailboxes in Rashtrapati Bhavan. An official at the president’s home told Firstpost he could confirm two of these IDs existed, but not that the veterans’ letter reached them. The secretary to the president could not be reached for comment.

 Veterans’ letter to president: Major who sent petition tweets emails by ex-chiefs ‘endorsing’ appeal; ex-air chief Suri says misunderstanding

Air Chief Marshal NC Suri has denied endorsing the message to President Ram Nath Kovind. Image/Twitter@ANI

The letter, purportedly endorsed by over 150 retired military officers, including eight former service chiefs, urged President Kovind to “take all necessary steps to urgently direct all political parties that they must forthwith desist from using the military, military uniforms or symbols, and any actions by military formations or personnel, for political purposes or to further their political agendas”. It was released late on 11 April.

Air Chief Marshal Suri and General Rodrigues told ANI they had not signed the letter or endorsed its contents.  “I do not know who these people are and it (the letter) is a classic manifestation of fake news,” General Rodrigues told the wire service. Air Chief Marshal Suri told ANI the letter was “coming on WhatsApp and emails. To put an end to it I wrote that armed forces are apolitical and support the politically elected government. My consent has not been taken for any such letter. And I do not agree with whatever has been written in that letter.”

While the tweeted screenshot of his email exchange with Major Chowdhury does talk about the nonpartisan position the armed forces adopt, it qualifies this view by stating: “It is in this context that I endorse the appeal to the Supreme Commander.” Air Chief Marshal Suri told Firstpost that his email and its intent should be read in its entirety for context. “What I meant was that I endorse the view that the armed forces are apolitical and support an elected government,” he said, over the phone. “I did not say I endorse the contents of the letter.” He added that this “seems to be a misunderstanding of messages” not “a deliberate act”.

Later, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told the press she found the letter “condemnable” and dismissed it as “fake” propaganda issued by “vested interests”. Major Chowdhury told Firstpost he was in no doubt the message contained in the letter represented the sentiments of the veterans who he said endorsed it. “I don’t wish to speculate on the reasons why two of my senior officers have issued denials or what pressured them to do so,” he added.

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Updated Date: Apr 14, 2019 09:33:59 IST

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