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February 9, 2000
Brigadier Surinder Singh requests President to hear him out
Josy Joseph in New Delhi
Brigadier Surinder Singh, who commanded the Kargil sector when the conflict broke out there, has requested President K R Narayanan for a personal hearing.
In a petition he lambasted the top brass of the Indian army, and expressed fear for his life and liberty.
He requested the President to order an independent judicial inquiry into the controversy that saw his removal from the sensitive post. He categorically stated that the present army inquiry against him is prejudiced.
"I do not expect any fair treatment by the army authorities," Brigadier Singh said.
The President, for his part, has as yet neither granted him a hearing nor made any recommendation to the government on the matter, sources told rediff.com
In his seven-page letter dated November 7, 1999, Brigadier Singh said: "...having waited all this while, and seeing highly prejudicial and one sided approach against me, I am approaching the Supreme Commander [of the Indian army]."
He claimed he was "being treated shabbily because he is saying and sticking to truth."
The government "through the defence minister has already exhibited their intention to punish me before conclusion of enquiry which is in progress and hence the government with present defence minister cannot be expected to be impartial," the letter said.
"I can see nowhere except to the Supreme Commander and hence the request for interview to explain in person the entire background. I am not intending to seek favour," it continued. "This prayer is on account of highly illegal onslaught by army authorities against me through the media by spreading various untrue facts and disinformation."
As the commander of 121 Infantry Brigade, to which post he was appointed in June 1998, he had appraised everyone, "including the chief of the army staff about the enhanced threat perception in the Kargil sector."
His assessment was not taken seriously and "I was termed as alarmist." Despite documented evidence of his briefings to even the army chief, when the intrusions took place he was "made a scapegoat and deprived of command."
Brigadier Singh claimed the army chief has made several attempts to buy his silence. After being called to Delhi by General V P Malik, he was refused an audience with him for six days, the disgruntled officer said.
When he returned to Srinagar, he had already been posted out to Secunderabad. "When I reached Secunderabad, I learnt that I had been posted to Ranchi. I shall be disclosing the reasons for my move from Secunderabad to Ranchi during my interview with His Excellency, if granted," the letter said.
Brigadier Singh presently faces a court inquiry about the information that appeared in the press, most of which initially contained his version. The General Officer Commanding of 3 Infantry Division in Leh, Major General V S Budhwar, against whom the brigadier had raised complaints, had ordered the inquiry, headed by a brigadier.
"Therefore, the court of inquiry, as can be expected, has predetermined the issues," the letter said.
Brigadier Singh also claimed the army authorities have "resorted to briefing the press almost daily at the behest of the chief of army staff, [giving] no chance to me to rebut this disinformation campaign."
"I have now learnt that even the Hon'ble Defence Minister Shri George Fernandes has said that he would get me severely punished. Such blatant unfair treatment has left me with only one option, that is to approach the Supreme Commander, lest they all gang up against me to suppress the truth," the brigadier said.
He also claimed the army chief called a meeting of editors in August 1999, and that during it presented before them documents pertaining to Brigadier Singh's case.
"On the basis of these documents these respective newspapers wrote about the Kargil affair. I would seek your indulgence either to stop them from going to press or permission be granted to me to rebut what all falsehood is being spread against me," his letter requested.
The President, it is reliably learnt, would not interfere in the matter. He has always kept away from defence controversies. When sacked chief of the naval staff Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat and his wife Niloufer landed up at Rashtrapati Bhavan unannounced a couple of hours after he was dismissed, the President had met them with his wife, making it a social meeting.
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