It is hard to figure out what is happening in the country the way even the pretence of adhering to old certitudes and verities seems to be giving way to a public display of bad manners and a breach of once well-regarded protocols. The permissiveness in the political arena has clearly intruded into other spheres of official and non-official activity. Even holders of the high constitutional posts have abandoned discretion and restraint in favour of playing to the gallery. Thus, you have the honourable Supreme Court judges washing the dirty linen in public at a press conference. And then you have the serving Army Chief holding forth almost daily on public platforms.

Soldiers in uniform, regardless of the rank, are not supposed to speak in public. If General Bipin Rawat has to speak in public on the rarest of rare occasions, there has to be a valid reason. He can neither point out publicly the flaws in the governing system, nor talk of his prowess to take on the presumed enemy on one or the other front, or on both, simultaneously—the operative word being publicly. In the secret chambers of the North and South Blocks, he can freely give vent to his frustrations, hopes, demands and expectations from the people and the politicians. But not in public. It is for politicians to perform that task, share the relevant information with the people, prepare them for what to expect and educate them on the state of defence preparedness.

Democratic polities do not grant their service chiefs the luxury to make headlines like politicians. Indeed, even on security and defence, sharing with the public the good and the bad is ideally to be done by the Defence Minister or other ministers of the realm. The Chief talks to his troops, confides in the government, but certainly not in the media, and never over the heads of the ruling politicians.

A gentle caution from Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, or even from his close friend and fellow Uttarakhandi, the NSA Ajit Doval, might curb General Rawat from holding forth on this or that matter. Come to think of it, the NSA by dint of the very nature of his job is expected to speak to the media, interact with a few chosen scribes writing on national security, but, to the best of our knowledge, Doval generally keeps the media at an arm’s length. Not a bad thing, we can tell, given the petty-minded agendas which generally dictate the editorial policy of various print outlets.

For example, a newspaper editor, who does not tire of advertising his scholarly-intellectual pretensions, lapped up the extraordinary press conference of the four senior-most SC judges, virtually endorsing the open rebellion and suggesting that the CJI, in league with the incumbent regime, was out to destroy the institutional sanctity and independence of the judiciary. However, the same gentleman sheepishly felt obliged to demand the resignation of the four when one of the newspaper’s trustees, a former judge himself, wrote a scathing column, calling for the ouster of the rebel four. To save face, he gratuitously added the CJI in the list of those whom he wanted to resign after the public spat in the highest court in the land.

Indeed, it is amusing to see that those who hailed the rebel quartet for speaking up against the CJI, wholly unmindful of the institutional proprieties and obligations, should feel so exercised when the Army Chief comments on various issues. How it was important for General Rawat to follow the institutional proprieties and conventions, and how the same could be breached with impunity by Chelameswar and Co., speaks of rank partisanship, nay, pettiness, which now informs journalism of the so-called biggies in the media. Having presumed that the judges’ rebellion was actually against the Modi government at one remove, these worthies willingly sidestepped concerns for all canons of behaviour for the judges. But General Rawat must be reminded of the niceties and nuances of the post he holds.

In the same vein, we find it utterly disgusting that after the CBI Judge O P Saini’s shocking acquittal of the accused in the 2G scam, the anti-Modi politicians and their accomplices in the media should fete A. Raja as some sort of a conquering hero who was victimised by the present ruling dispensation. It is akin to celebrating the non-conviction of a single notable politician for the cold-blooded pogrom against the Sikhs in 1984.

Hopefully, even these twisted minds will not claim that just as there was no 2G scam, no Sikhs were killed in the nation’s capital since no one has been convicted.

A CASE OF REAL FAKE NEWS

President Trump might have made the term fake news popular, but we in India too have no dearth of it either. Like the other day someone claimed that four key players of the Indian team now touring South Africa addressed a press conference, accusing Captain Virat Kohli of arbitrarily picking the playing eleven and then assigning bowling and batting on his whims without being mindful of the players’ seniority and experience. We can confirm that the rumour of a press conference being suppressed is total bogus. No press conference was held in the first place. Besides, the entire team, despite the loss of the Test series, has full confidence in the leadership of Kohli.

 

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