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News Analysis: New Army chief can tell country from government

Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane addresses a press conference in New Delhi.

Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane addresses a press conference in New Delhi.   | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

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The oath a jawan or an officer takes is to uphold the core values set in the Preamble, Gen. Naravane says.

New Army Chief General Manoj Naravane has sent out a clear and direct message to the country and his rank and file that the Army or the armed forces must at all times uphold the Constitution and its Preamble, which contain the core values of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity.

The General’s comments, contained in his opening remarks at the Army Chief’s annual press conference, and not in response to questions, makes it clear that the oath a jawan or an officer takes is to the Constitution (and not to the government of the day).

Giving out a “few points” about what the Army was about and sending a message to his men and women, Gen. Naravane said ‘A’ was for allegiance that meant for him: “As the Army, or the armed forces, we swear allegiance to the Constitution of India. In fact, be it a jawan or an officer, we take an oath...that is what should guide us in all our actions and at all times.”

“But what does this really translate into? What this translates into is also the core values which are enshrined into the Preamble to the Constitution — that is justice, liberty, equality and fraternity and that is what we are fighting for when we are deployed on the borders, safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity; it is to secure for our people these core values. We need to keep this in mind at all times,” he added.

The General’s remarks assume significance at a time when tens of thousands of people, including young students, have taken to reading the Preamble in public while protesting the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).

Gen. Naravane also makes the point that when deployed at the borders, the forces are fighting for the core values contained in the Preamble, which has received much public attention since the CAA was passed in December.

The Army chief’s formulations on Saturday come days after the December 26 comments made by his predecessor and now Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Bipin Rawat that leaders were those who led the country in the “right direction”.

Gen. Rawat, widely seen as critical of the anti-CAA agitation, had said: “Leaders are not those who lead people in inappropriate directions as we are witnessing in a large number of universities and college students the way they are leading masses of crowds to carry out arson and violence in our cities and towns.”

The former Army Chief’s comments had come under considerable fire from the Opposition leaders and given his appointment as the first-ever CDS found favour with the government of the day.

A point of interest is that Gen. Naravane’s emphasis on justice, liberty, equality and fraternity come a day after the Supreme Court said the “geopolitical struggle” in Jammu & Kashmir “cannot be played down or ignored” while addressing the issue of Internet shutdown and the freedom of expression.

“In line with the aforesaid requirement, we may note that even the broadest guarantee of free speech would not protect the entire gamut of free speech. The question which begs to be answered is whether there exists a clear and present danger in restricting such expression,” Justices N.V. Ramana, R. Subhash Reddy and B.R. Gavai said in their judgment on government curbs in Kashmir.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 8:25:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/news-analysis-new-army-chief-has-drawn-a-clear-distinction-between-constitution-and-govt-of-the-day/article30550030.ece

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