Below is an open letter to Indian Express Editor-in-Chief, Shekhar Gupta on his story: The January Night Raisina Hill was spooked: Two key Army units moved towards Delhi without notifying Govt, by Anshul Kumar Pandey.
Although your story ‘The January Night Raisina Hill was Spooked…’ (Indian Express, April 4, 2012) has been already attacked on multiple fronts and has become a huge round butt of jokes, I am writing this letter to draw your attention not towards anyone or anything, but away from anything to do with the Army, particularly the defense establishment of this country. Much of what you wrote contradicted with much of what you meant and you definitely need to fire the person who decided the headline of your story.
I understand that you are a very busy man (cooking up stories must take a lot of time, I am sure) and hence I will come straight to the point. The central premise of your story, that the Army should have informed about any troop movements to the Ministry of Defense has already been busted by many seasoned army officers and retired civil servants. To quote The Hindu:
“Meanwhile, retired army officers and civil servants have disputed a central premise of the news report — that the army should have informed the MoD about its exercise in the NCR. Lt. Gen Satish Nambiar (retired), a former Director-General Military Operation, insisted that no such protocols were followed in his time, and Ajay Prasad, who retired as Defense Secretary in 2004, said he was not aware of this requirement.” (The Hindu, April 5, 2012)
In your article you say that this requirement to inform the MoD of any army movements in the NCR was part of a protocol which was supposedly set up after the Operation Bluestar in 1984. And yet, a Defense Secretary who retired in 2004, full 20 years after this so called protocol was supposedly put in place negates having any knowledge about the same. This means two things: Either your story implies that Mr. Ajay Prasad along with Lt.Gen Satish Nambiar were blissfully ignorant of the standard rules and regulations, protocols and procedures followed by the army when in NCR and that they sleepwalked through their whole tenure in their respective positions or that this protocol never existed! Which of the two is it? I would certainly like to know.
“This is a story you would tell with extreme care and caution”, you began, and yet you proceeded to throw caution to the winds. All through the story you kept on hinting at that impossibility of a ‘coup’ and yet you concluded by saying “Nobody is using the “C” word to imply anything other than “curious”. All else is considered an impossibility”. I have never seen a bigger volte face!
The fact that these movements of troops occurred on the same day that the Army Chief decided to take the govt. to the Supreme Court on his age issue was purely a coincidence and has been blown out of proportion in your story as it is clearly evident in hindsight. I am all for the matters relating to the national security of this country being debated in the public sphere. However, these matters should be handled with extreme caution by the media and yet your coup mongering has not only displayed how immature The Indian Express is in dealing with such reports but has also left everyone disappointed.
Mainstream media like The Indian Express feeds on controversy and sensationalism to garner attention. Yet, as defense minister Mr. A.K. Antony said: “on the issue of national security and Indian armed forces, we can’t take the luxury of controversies”. I couldn’t have agreed more.
I hope that the next time you get hold of such information of a sensitive nature, you try to apply your mind and listen to the voice of reason rather than scurrying towards the printing press with half baked information and the probability of a scoop. For now, The Indian Express needs to learn the art of responsible journalism.
Anshul Kumar Pandey