Army chief General Bipin Rawat on Thursday triggered a controversy by publicly condemning those leading violent protests, asserting that leadership wasn’t about guiding people to carry out arson and violence, comments that were widely seen as being aimed at the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests across India.
The comments by the general, set to retire on December 31 and widely expected to be named India’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), drew sharp criticism from Opposition leaders and also senior retired officers though most of the latter did not want to come on record.
However, this is not the first time that the outspoken and media-savvy general has courted controversy with his comments. Here’s a list of five top controversies he triggered after taken over as army chief on December 31, 2016:
Here are 5 occasions when the Army chief courted controversy:
General Rawat awarded the Chief of Army Staff’s Commendation card two years ago to Major Leetul Gogoi for “sustained efforts” in counter insurgency operations. Gogoi was mired in a controversy in 2017 after tying a Kashmiri civilian to the front of his jeep, apparently in an attempt to prevent stone-pelters from targeting his convoy.
The incident evoked criticism from people in the Valley, human rights activists and political leaders. Last year, Gogoi landed in trouble after he was seen with Kashmiri woman in a Srinagar hotel against rules and for being away from his place of duty in an operational area.
Rawat’s stance relating to disability pension also sparked a row. Last December, he warned soldiers who falsely call themselves ‘disabled’ and make their disability a way to earn extra money, through disability pension.
“If a soldier is truly disabled, we will pay special attention to them and help them fully, even financially. But, those who falsely call themselves ‘disabled’ and make their disability a way to earn money, I am warning them today, that you better mend your ways otherwise in a few days you might receive special instructions from the Army Headquarters, which will not be good news for you,” he had said in Pune.
Later, defence minister Rajnath Singh took an in-principle decision to rescind the order and asked service headquarters to come up with means to reduce “impropriety” in disability pension.
In 2017, Rawat’s comments against stone pelters in Kashmir triggered a row. “In fact, I wish these people, instead of throwing stones at us, were firing weapons at us. Then I would have been happy. Then I could do what I (want to do),” he said. He also said, “Adversaries must be afraid of you and at the same time your people must be afraid of you. We are a friendly army, but when we are called to restore law and order, people have to be afraid of us,” he said.
Rawat faced criticism from veterans for suggesting that there should be code of conduct governing retired soldiers. Army HQ is clear that it is not interested in a code of conduct that acts as an advisory to serving and retired officers but which has teeth – to even withdraw pensionary benefits in the worst of cases.
This, it hopes, will prevent junior officers abusing senior generals on Twitter in crude language and lowering the dignity of an Indian Army officer.
His comments to a news channel on women in combat roles were also controversial. He said women in combat roles could complain about men peeping into their tents while they were changing their clothes. “She will say somebody is peeping, so we will have to give a sheet around her,” he said.