New Delhi: Even as the government tries to recover from the controversies kicked up by Army Chief Gen VK Singh, a news report claimed on Wednesday that Indian Army had moved two units towards New Delhi without notifying the government on January 16.
The shocking claim was made by The Indian Express, which reported that the incident took place hours after Army Chief VK Singh had moved the Supreme Court on his age controversy.
How it happened
Citing central intelligence agencies, the news daily said that key military units stationed in the vicinity of the national capital had embarked on a ‘non-notified’ movement towards Delhi. The mechanised infantry based in Hisar (Haryana) as a part of the 33rd Armoured Division (which is a part of 1 Corps, a strike formation based in Mathura and commanded by Lt Gen A K Singh) had started out in the direction of the capital, 150 km away.
The reports further claims that the movement of an entire unit of Mechanised Infantry, with Russian-made Armoured Fighting Vehicles carried on 48 tank transporters, was confirmed by routine lookouts.
Although, any suspicion on the intentions of a generally apolitical and trustworthy military was too unlikely, but as a precautionary measure, the lookouts, which have been put in place since June 1984 when some mutineers from Sikh units had moved towards the capital in the wake of Operation Bluestar, were alerted.
However, what further aroused suspicion and concerns about the non-notified movement of the two Army units was another report claiming that a unit of the Agra-based 50 Para Brigade was also moved on the same day.
PM was alerted
With the lookouts confirming the development, a bemused establishment raised an alert of sorts and informed the Defence Minister. Consequently, the government also put in motion an old contingency plan to delay such a move.
Sensing the sensitivity of the situation, the government issued a terror alert, which entailed more police checking of vehicles and slowed the movement of traffic.
The Prime Minister was informed at the crack of dawn on January 17 and surprise checks were carried out on the location and status of key formations and a quick report was sought from their commanders, particularly in the northwestern region, who reported nothing abnormal.
In the midst of these developments, Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma was also instructed to cut short his visit to Malaysia.
After returning home, Sharma sought an explanation from Lt Gen A K Choudhary, Director General Military Operations, on the suspected movement of two Army units and what it meant for.
In his report, Gen Choudhary said the move of the Paras (the Para Brigade is controlled directly by the DGMO) was just a routine exercise.
About the movement of the mechanised unit, he said the Army was carrying out exercises to check its ability to make quick deployments of key units during fog.
He was then asked to send the units back immediately. Both formations were halted, and sent back within hours.
Although, the Army claims that these exercises were meant to check effectiveness in fog and the Paras were being moved to check out possibility of their “marrying” with the C-130s in Hindon, there are several unanswered questions as to why the ministry of Defence and the IAF was not notified.
Govt, Army reject report
Rejecting the suggestions of a military coup, Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma was quoted as saying, “The Indian Express story is incorrect and baseless. The facts have been distorted. It was a normal and routine movement."
Defence Ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar also reacted by saying, “Such reports are completely baseless and we categorically deny the same.”
Army has also not denied the troop movement and said it was a routine training exercise.
Maj Gen SL Narasimhan, Additional Director General, Public Information, said, “These were routine training at the formation-level to check the effectiveness of mobilisation as per Standard Operating Procedure of local formations. Almost all units of the Army carry out a number of such training at different times of the year.”