Wednesday, May 23, 2012
OP CLEAN UP OR OP VENDETTA?
GAURAV C. SAWANT 23 MAY, NEW DELHI It’s a sledge hammer blow that could effectively seal his fate and prevent him from taking over as army commander on June 1. The Chief of the Army Staff General VK Singh has issued a show cause notice to Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag, the 3 Corps Commander for what Chief says is abdication of responsibility. Lt Gen Suhag based at Corps Headquarters Rangapahar (Dimapur), Nagaland has been given 7 days to respond. A censure, that the chief of the Army Staff has threatened Lt Gen Suhag with, will result in a ``Discipline and Vigilance Department ban’’ on promotion. This may mean that when Lt Gen Bikram Singh, army commander takes over as the Chief of the Army Staff on June 1, Lt Gen Suhag will not replace him as army commander. Lt Gen Suhag is seen as the next in line to be the army Chief after COAS designate Lt Gen Bikram Singh. But this show cause notice could alter the line of succession. Headlines Today has accessed the two page show cause notice dated May 19, 2012 signed by Gen VK Singh. The Chief in the confidential notice says: ``it appears to me that censure at the level of COAS in appropriate form is called for on account of the above lapses on your part….reply to this show cause notice is requested within 7 days of its receipt failing which it would be assumed that you have no grounds to urge against the proposed action and an ex party decision may be taken.’’ The matter pertains to a search operation conducted by the 3 Corps intelligence and surveillance unit at the house of Surajit Gogoi, at Jorhat where a pistol, a mobile phone and some items were removed from his house and not declared. The raid was carried out on December 20, 2011. The allegation is that Havildar Sanjay Thapa stole a pistol and a mobile phone during that raid. The Havildar owned up to the theft on December 28, 2011. The civil police initiated an investigation into the matter. The COAS on 18th May 2012 recorded his censure in the form of ``severe displeasure’’ for the commanding officer of the intelligence unit. The COAS also expressed his displeasure with the conduct of Brigadier Abhay Krishna, Brigadier General Staff (Operations) – which have since been stayed by the Armed Forces Tribunal. And on the 19th of May (12 days before he bids farewell to arms) the army chief issued a notice to Lt Gen Suhag and says: ``actions taken by all concerned in the command chain including you as General Officer Commanding 3 Corps were not adequate to deal with the situation.’’ The Chief goes on to say: ``That brigadier Abhay Krishna BGS Ops, having come to know of the offences did not display adequate urgency to deal with the situation…Various intelligence reports have also indicated complicity of the unit in many earlier acts against military ethos.’’ Sources say the crux of the army chief’s anger lies in point D of the show cause notice. ``That it is also learnt that the CO 3 CISU during his absence from the unit on leave was masquerading in Delhi as CO Army HQ CIU and interacting with the media, giving anti organisation stories. The above chain of circumstances indicate that 3 CISU has been handled in a most unprofessional and lackasidical manner and the chain of command including the GOC 3 Corps abdicating their responsibility.’’ ``The timing of the notice is suspect. The move appears to be an effort to prevent Lt Gen Suhag from taking over as army commander by hook or by crook,’’ says Lt Gen Raj Kadyan, former deputy chief of army staff. ``If there was a case of theft of pistol and mobile phone by a Havildar, how can you hold the Corps commander responsible? There is a chain of command – the platoon commander, Commanding Officer and at the most for lapses of supervision at the level of a Brigadier. Under what circumstances can the corps commander be held responsible for failure of command,’’ he adds. Sources in 3 Corps insist that Lt Gen Suhag was on leave at the time of the incident and was in no way involved with either the intelligence operation or its investigation at a later date. In fact eyebrows are being raised by the ``personal interest’’ that the army chief is taking in this matter. On 20th April 2012, an ``OP Immediate’’ signal was sent to the discipline and vigilance branch of eastern command saying: ``request do not initiate any proceedings as per directions of the GOC-in-C. Further action to be initiated on the issue of directions of COAS.’’ On April 7th another message sent said: ``the COAS has directed that Havildar Thapa of 3 CISU be handed over to the civil police in the ongoing case and completion be forwarded on phone.’’ Says Maj Gen Ashok Mehta, former GOC 57 Div: ``for someone who has 6 working days in office, instead of showing some grace, the COAS is being vindictive. Because he wants one of his men to become the chief after Lt Gen Bikram Singh. It is unprecedented that a show cause notice is issued to a corps commander a week before he takes over as army commander.’’ General VK Singh had earlier complained to the CBI about Lt Gen Suhag in an alleged ``procurement scam’’ during his stint in the cabinet secretariat. The CBI did not prima facie find evidence against Lt Gen Suhag, giving him a clean chit based on investigations conducted by the Research and analysis wing (R&AW). Sources in army headquarters insist: ``There should have been an impartial probe by an outside agency. That was never done.’’ However, once he got a clean chit, the MoD sent Lt Gen Suhag’s name to the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) for promotion to the rank of army commander. Now a DV ban could effectively prevent Suhag’s elevation.