General VK Singh, Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Road Transport and Highways, has dismissed there was any “attempted military coup” during then-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s tenure in 2012 after a news report had claimed that the Indian Army had moved two units towards New Delhi without notifying the government on January 16, 2012.
Speaking to ANI in an exclusive interview, General VK Singh, who was Army Chief then, described the alleged military coup as “Somebody imagined a thing like that in the journalistic world. Egged on by some people who wanted to tarnish the image of the armed forces. To come up with an absurd idea like that… Nothing like that happened,” Gen Singh said.
When asked what happened that night on January 16, 2012, Gen Singh said: “About a week before that, Go back in time and you will be able to do research on that”.
In 1988, the former army Chief recounted that in the Maldives, there were chances that the president is going to be thrown out. “And somebody else will take over. We had that information in the Army”.
“The information was shared at the appropriate level. And we were told nothing will happen. It is ok. But when you get information, which is more than what is coming to the people, You know what is happening. You know the person who is coming is not in our favour but is showing to be in our favour and chances are that if the throw-out becomes bad, like last time, we probably would have to interfere,” he said.
“If you don’t study whatever we have done, then, we are not worth it. We had problems. Last minute, things came. People were running helter and skelter. We got a little delayed. Things were better when we ultimately landed there. This time we did not want to be late. If you dont want to be late, you need to prepare your people,” Gen Singh said while referring to ‘Operation Cactus’ undertaken by the Indian Army in averting the 1988 coup attempt in Maldives.
In 1988, a group of Maldivians led by businessman Abdullah Luthufi and assisted by armed mercenaries of a Tamil secessionist organisation from Sri Lanka, the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam tried to overthrow the government of then-president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
However, they were caught in a shootout with military forces in Male and were forced to retreat after Indian Army commenced ‘Operation Cactus’ and deployed paratroopers to the Maldives at Gayoom’s request.
Nineteen Maldivians were killed in the gunfire.
“So, two units were asked so that we can time them out. Those were the bad days. If I told them to come to Hindon, the game is up. Republic Day Parade is taking place. They can come to Delhi. And when you ask people to move, you should go through the entire gamut of activities that are taking place,” General Singh said.
“Go..whatever they have to take, it has to be taken from a certain depot because everything cannot be kept with you. Everything was done. And we were taking the timings of the people of one unit moving from Hisar and the other unit from Agra. That is all,” he added.
“On being asked had he (as an Army chief then) the political okay for this kind of exercise, he said, “We do not revert to politics for this kind of exercise,” he said. Our intentions were fine”.
“Our military commanders were on board,” he revealed.
“Absolutely. There was someone who asked me, Sir, should we wait for orders? I said, No. You will get a certain order in actuality. Are you going to say, Sir, I am going to have a problem? Bhartarpur Depot is closed. It is taking me more time. That was the time to sort out issues,” General VK Singh recalled.
When asked about moving Ordnance Depot at that time, the former army chief said, “Yes. The anti-tank missiles… You do not keep them in the unit. They are required for environmental storage climate. So they are required at a particular place. When we do everything in the army, we prepare them for actualities. You can’t say everybody is sleeping, it is taking more time. You have to see things moving in that short period. And they have to be in Delhi before daybreak”.
On being asked not to take anyone on board from the political establishment, especially the Defence minister at that time, VK Singh said, “Who knows who is going to give orders when things start to move? We had the information. I knew what was going to happen in Maldives. They said we will see when it happens. Now, will you leave it as professional? Will you leave it to “We will see it that time” thing like that..? Would you put your troops at risk? Would you play with the image of the country?”
The news report on the attempted military coup came out in February 2012, one month after the two units started to move to New Delhi.
When confronted, a journalist, who published the news report, will never accuse a sitting army chief of staging a possible potential army coup for denying an interview, the minister said, “The particular journalist started his career in Punjab. This journalist has been trying to find a place everywhere, and they had to find something to stick on a chief who was telling the government to let the system that prevails in the country be followed. The whole country only follows one law”.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)