Speaking at the ‘Six Sigma Healthcare Leadership Summit’ last week, the army chief, General Bipin Rawat, stated, ‘Leaders are not those who lead people in inappropriate directions, as we are witnessing in a large number of universities and college students.. the way they are leading masses of crowds to carry out arson and violence in our cities and towns. This is not leadership.’ This is what the press quoted and as usual, it quoted only a small part of the same paragraph of the speech.
The balance of the paragraph which if linked, stated,‘A leader is one who leads you in the correct direction, who gives you correct advice and then ensures that you care for the people you lead. Leadership is through personal example and that is what we in the armed forces are proud about.’ Present in the audience were Param Vir Chakra award winners, Honorary Captain Bana Singh and Subedar Major Yoginder Singh, who had led by example in critical operations and hence his mentioning this was to impress upon the audience the role played by such leaders in the army.
There was immediate response from politicians. Owaisi from the AIMIM party stated leadership ‘is about knowing the limits of one’s office’. He tweeted, ‘It is about understanding the idea of civilian supremacy and preserving the integrity of the institution that you [Gen Bipin Rawat] head.’ Digvijay Singh of the Congress tweeted: ‘Leaders are not those who allow their followers to indulge in Genocide of Communal Violence.’
While there was no mention of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the violence it followed, nor was there any mention of any political party or event, yet politicians jumped into the fray linking his small portion of the speech with the recent violence, ignoring the balance and the larger picture.
This is not the first time that the current army chief has been criticised in his talks. The questions which arise this time as has been the norm earlier is why did the army chief mention this aspect and why are politicians scared when he even makes general statements.
In Kashmir, violence by the youth is instigated by comments from the Hurriyat, political leaders and over ground workers of terrorist organizations. In retaliation, it is the protesting youth which suffer casualties. During the violence, instigators remain in the background, while those protesting face the wrath of security forces. The instigators then exploit the subsequent casualties for greater violence. There is no member of the family of instigators who participate in the violence. All major entities, Hurriyat and political parties only exploit the situation for furtherance of their political gains.
Recent violence and protests by the youth are also politically motivated. Those who motivate and push youth into protests are not in the frontlines to face police action. Their only intention is to gain political brownie points and display their relevance in national politics. Many political leaders have gone on record stating they would desire that protests by students continue. This has been the bane of Indian politics. The reality is that it is the students, who have been wrongly led who suffer.
To further add to problems of protesting students, many of whom would desire peaceful protests to register their disagreement with government policies, members of political parties, who are not students, join the protests and commence violence, the retaliation of which is borne by the students. This enables exploitation by politicians.
It is this leadership which the army chief decried. He compared this exploitation of youth in protests,including by pushing in members of political parties to instigate violence, with leadership in the armed forces, where leaders led from the front, were the first to face bullets and become casualties, rather than expose their followers. There are hundreds of such examples within the armed forces and some of them were present in the audience.This is the tradition of the Indian army, which the chief described.
The fact that he spoke the truth on the poor quality of political leader’s level of leadership caused anxiety within their ranks. Rather than admitting their failures, they jumped to attack him.
They forgot a few major facts. The first is that in his forty years of military service he has faced bullets and shelling by Pakistani troops to ensure security of the nation, unlike political leaders, who exploit Indians to gain power and have no idea what it is to be on the frontline and risk life and limb daily.
Secondly, he represents the Indian army, soldiers of whom are deployed well away from home and many of whose families would have been affected by the violence. Thirdly, the army is a secular organization, representing each part of the nation, whose fabric must not be disturbed by polarization between religions.
Rather than seeking to criticise him, political leaders should have, apart from listening to the complete talk, understood his intention of guiding youth, the future of the country, from being falsely led and exploited. Politicians reactions, half-baked and ill conceived only displayed their own shortcoming and narrow mindset. It is a pity that the nation considers these individuals as its leaders.
Disclaimer: The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of N4M Media.