By: Lt Col JS Sodhi (Retd)
Mahatma Gandhi’s quote “Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values and your values become your destiny” has immense significance for the Indian Armed Forces which have been ranked as the fourth most powerful military in the world by SIPRI, in a report published in January 2023.
Two recent posts on social media had me thinking and it took me a while before I could get down to penning my thoughts. One was a press release put up by the Spear Corps of the Indian Army on their Twitter handle on June 01, 2023 which said that certain fingers were raised onto the social and religious composition of the Indian Army Officers operating in Manipur which has seen turbulence and turmoil since May 03, 2023.
The second social media post was a letter of Adjutant General’s Branch of the Indian Army dated May 26, 2023 which had the heading as “Advisory: Misuse of Social Media Platform by EXSM”.
These two social media posts have an uncanny relation with what I have observed in the Social Media Groups and Platforms involving few Serving Officers and Veterans of the Indian Armed Forces. The Armed Forces of a Nation comprising its Army, Navy and the Air Force are often jointly referred to as the Military.
The Indian Armed Forces are the epitome of the Secular and Social fabric that India is so proud of and has stood India in good state ever since we got independence in 1947. In the Indian Armed Forces there is no public and prominent display of religious affinities by the Officers who get commissioned to serve India. The religion of the Officers is considered as the religion of the troops that they command.
Hence it is quite normal to see in the Indian Army a Bengali officer commanding troops from Haryana and Rajasthan in the Jat Regiment that he is commissioned in, and he making every endeavour and effort to speak in the language of the troops. He may or may not master the language of his troops in his career but definitely he wins the hearts and respect of the troops he commands even by the broken language of the troops that he speaks because he does so from his heart, to be amalgamated with the troops he is commanding.
Any military and non-military Social Media group and platform is not a statutory right for any of the Serving Officers or Veterans to join or be a member of, but what is a matter of grave concern is when such platforms are misused by few Serving Officers and Veterans of the Indian Armed Forces to propagate their political and religious ideologies which are a threat to the Secular and Social fabric of the Indian Armed Forces.
Age and rank do matter in the Indian Armed Forces. When a senior-ranked or a senior-aged Serving Officer/Veteran speaks up, it carries more weight as compared to a junior-ranked or a junior-aged Serving Officer/Veteran speaking up. But what is surprising and a matter of deep concern is that many senior-ranked and senior-aged Serving Officers/Veterans don’t speak up when posts are posted in the Social Media groups which seek to threaten the very foundation of Social and Secular fabric of the Indian Armed Forces. Their silence is indeed sad and shocking.
These few Serving Officers and Veterans who regularly spew political and religious venom in the military social media groups are the biggest traitors of India as they are acting like termites trying to eat into the Social and Secular fabric of the Indian Armed Forces.
And equally culpable are those Administrators of these social media groups who allow political and religious venom to be spewed in the military social media groups. Such Administrators should excuse themselves from being Administrators if they feel that they are incapable and incompetent to stop the spewing of political and religious venom in the military social media groups.
Fake and fraud Regimental, Course, Squadron or Company spirit is exhibited by these few Administrators who allow the Social and Secular fabric of the Indian Armed Forces to be compromised for few likes and claps on their personal posts.
As the General Elections of 2024 approach nearer, it is obvious that many Veterans will try to try their luck in electoral politics.
The trend in the last few years of Veterans of the Indian Armed Forces joining active politics shortly after retirement isn’t a good indicator for the Indian Armed Forces as an organisation, as it motivates many personnel in Service to think of politics as a second career after retirement. This would make them go overboard while in service to prove their political and religious credentials so that they are recognised by those who matter in the political circles and thus they have a smooth transition into politics shortly after retirement. And while doing so it is bound to affect their functioning in an apolitical and a secular organisation that the Armed Forces is so well known for.
For those who say that a military person will clean the Indian politics as is believed by some personnel of the Armed Forces to justify their political and religious leanings in the last few years, forget in all probability that no military person will ever be made the president of a political party and neither will any career politician allow them to be given an appointment which is of substance, which can cleanse the Indian politics.
And for those who say that Armed Forces Officers have risen up to become the Presidents of USA so it can happen in India too, should remember that most of the US citizens do military service while it isn’t the similar case in India. Almost every American voter or his/her near family member has gone through military life and it makes them associated with military personnel in active politics. This isn’t the case in India.
For those Veterans who still want to spew political and religious venom and for those too who want to contest electoral politics in future, please do so after removing your rank from the Social Media platforms and public life, for politics in the antithesis of what soldiering stands for. The Indian Armed Forces Veteran politicians of earlier times like Jaswant Singh, Rajesh Pilot and Suresh Kalmadi never used their ranks despite excelling well in electoral politics.
It is the duty of every Serving officer and Veteran of the Indian Armed Forces to stop the Secular and Social fabric of the Indian Armed Forces from being dented in any manner. Each Serving Officer and Veteran can do the best according to his capacity and capability to ensure that this rot does not deepen further.
The decades old custom of the Indian Armed Forces to not discuss politics and religion in any formal or informal gathering has stood the test of time and is one of the main reasons why the Indian Armed Forces is regarded as one of the best in the world, as there are no political and religious divisions within the Indian Armed Forces. However off late this menace of politicisation and polarisation has started increasing within some Serving Officers and Veterans of the Indian Armed Forces. Hence it becomes incumbent to nip this problem in the beginning itself lest it becomes cancerous for the Indian Armed Forces.
I am a seventh-generation soldier and a third-generation Corps of Engineers Officer. In my entire commissioned service of over 21 years and 4 years pre-commissioning training, I have never seen politics and religion being discussed in the Indian Armed Forces. Hence to see even a few Serving Officers and Veterans spar over political and religious issues on the Social Media Groups & Platforms does have one thinking deeply and is indeed a deep cause of worry and concern as this can turn cancerous soon and start shaking the very Social and Secular foundations of the Indian Armed Forces.
Because whatever a person writes on the social media is the reflection of his inner thoughts. And if that person is spewing political and religious venom on the Social Media Groups & Platforms, it is but natural that he will do so in real life too. And such actions will threaten the foundations of the Indian Armed Forces as men and women from all religions and states join the Indian Armed Forces.
For those who argue that politics and religion should be discussed in the Indian Armed Forces so as to make the soldier more politically and religiously aware due to the changes in the society and the advent of the social media, should remember that as drugs is cancerous to a society, discussing politics and religion is cancerous to the Indian Armed Forces.
The Social Media Groups & Platforms are being used by these few Serving Officers and Veterans in furtherance of their political and religious agendas and many of them in the guise of posting latest news post only those posts which are aligned with their political and religious ideologies. These few Serving Officers and Veterans will never post or discuss anything which goes against their political and religious ideologies thus proving that their so-called patriotism and nationalism is all with a specific and malafide agenda.
Another often given reasoning given by these few Serving Officers and Veterans who repeatedly and regularly try to politicise and polarise the Indian Armed Forces through Social Media is that they are patriotic and nationalists and care for the nation. These few conveniently forget that all Serving Officers and Veterans are equally patriotic and nationalistic as they are serving/have served in the Indian Armed Forces and quite well understand what is good for the nation.
These few Serving Officers and Veterans are pretty quick to post news articles of anything wrong happening in States rules by political parties they hate and despise, but are eerily silent when something wrong happens in States ruled by the political parties that they adore and admire. Clearly, these few Serving Officers and Veteran use the Military Social Media groups as election canvassing platforms.
A hilarious and comical act of these few Serving Officers and Veterans who regularly and repeatedly post and discuss political and religious ideologies in the Social Media Groups is that if someone will post something not in consonance with their political and religious ideologies, these few will immediately post some general non-political and non-religious posts with the aim of “masking” the posts not in consonance with their political and religious ideologies! The think that by this “masking” act of theirs, the readers will get swayed, least realizing that every member of the Indian Armed Forces is well-read and well-educated and such “masking” acts only make them an object of ridicule and mockery.
Such Serving Officers and Veterans who are seen to affect the Secular and Social fabric of the Indian Armed Forces should be dealt in this severest manner possible. Else in the times ahead they will create unimaginable proportions of problems for the Indian Armed Forces.
Another very surprising point that comes to the fore is that these few Serving Officers who use the closed military social media groups like WhatsApp and Telegram to spew political and religious venom don’t do so in the open social media forums like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. It is because they are afraid of criminal action being initiated on them and thus misuse the Regimental, Course, Squadron and the Company social media groups for such purposes.
And what is equally surprising and shocking is the repeated and regular mocking done on the Indian Judiciary, the Indian Constitution and the Indian Laws in the social media groups by these few Serving Officers and Veterans whilst the majority remain speechless and silent and those miniscule few who raise their voice at the misuse of the military social media groups by these few Serving Officers and Veterans of the Indian Armed Forces, are either politely told to exit the social media groups or are deleted from the social media groups, so that these social media groups can continue with the agenda of politicisation and polarisation.
The Indian Army has acted well and in-time with the issuance of their letter dated May 26, 2023 before the beliefs, thoughts and words of these few Serving Officers and Veterans could become habits and values and change the destiny, as enumerated in the quote of Mahatma Gandhi in the beginning of the article. The destiny of the nation has been safeguarded by the issuance of this letter by the Indian Army.
For, if the Indian Armed Forces get politicised and polarized, it will result in a heavy price for India. Some case studies of a nation’s armed forces getting politicised and polarised are Pakistan, Afghanistan and Sudan.
It now the responsibility of each Serving Officer and Veteran of the Indian Armed Forces to voice his protest against these few Serving Officers and Veterans of the Indian Armed Forces who are misusing military and non-military social media groups and platforms to threaten the Social and Secular fabric of the Indian Armed Forces by regularly and repeatedly spewing political and religious venom and posts and engaging in such like discussions.
Napolean Hill’s quote “Self-discipline begins with the mastery of your thoughts. If you don’t control what you think, you can’t control what you do” holds aptly true for those Serving Officers and Veterans who are trying to shake the Secular and Social fabric of the Indian Armed Forces with their incessant barrage of Political and Religious Posts & Discussions.