New Delhi (IANS) Over 150 military veterans have complained to President Ram Nath Kovind against political leaders who they claim are taking credit for military operations like cross-border strikes and repeatedly using the armed forces for political gains.
In a letter written on Thursday, they urged the President 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".
They said that "some concerns have caused considerable alarm and disquiet among both the serving and the retired personnel of the forces".
They have also objected to the use of pictures of Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman -- who was captured by Pakistan and then released -- in posters along with the image of soldiers in election hoardings and campaign.
"The unusual and completely unacceptable practice of political leaders taking credit for military operations like cross-border strikes, and even going so far as to claim the Armed Forces to be 'Modiji ki Sena'.
"This is in addition to media pictures of election platforms and campaigns in which party workers are seen wearing military uniforms; and posters and images with pictures of soldiers and especially of Wing Commander Varthaman displayed," the letter said.
The veterans among the signatories included Generals S.F. Rodrigues, Shankar Roy Chowdhury, Deepak Kapoor; Admirals Laxminarayan Ramdas, Vishnu Bhagwat, Arun Prakash, Sureesh Mehta; and Air Chief Marshal N.C. Suri.
In the letter, they said: "We do appreciate that complaints by some senior retired personnel, including a written submission from a former Chief of the Naval Staff to the Chief Election Commissioner, have elicited a prompt response.
"Indeed a notification has been issued asking for an explanation from those responsible for these statements, including from the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. However, we regret to state that these do not appear to have resulted in any substantive change of behaviour and practice on the ground."
With the ongoing general elections, the veterans said they fear that such incidents may only increase as polling day draws near.
"We believe that you (President) will surely agree that any such misuse of the Armed Forces established under the Constitution of India and under the supreme command of the President of India would impinge adversely on the morale and fighting efficiency of the serving man or woman in uniform. It could therefore directly affect national security and national integrity.
"We therefore appeal to you to ensure that the secular and a-political character of our Armed Forces is preserved," the veterans appealed to the President.
They have also sent a copy of the letter to the Chief Election Commissioner for necessary action.