Statesman News Service, NEW DELHI, Feb. 13. —
As a controversy raged over reports that a head count of Muslim personnel in the armed forces had been commissioned, the Congress-led UPA government and the high-level committee purportedly entrusted with the job said its mandate was different from what the people were being given to understand. The Army chief, General JJ Singh, stressed: “The Army is and will remain an apolitical, secular and professional force”.
Soon after the BJP-Sangh Parivar and the JD-U described the supposed census as “divisive, communal and anti-national”, the Justice Rajindar Sachar Committee and the Prime Minister’s Office contended that the panel’s mandate was to prepare a report on the current “social, economic and educational status of the Muslim community of India”.
The committee spokesman, Mr S Zafar Mahmood, said no specific questions had been put to any wing of the defence forces or the defence ministry regarding any action that ever had been taken by the forces in the past. The committee also said it had not asked the armed forces any question about the 1948 Hyderabad “operation” and the 1999 Kargil war with Pakistan.
The Prime Minister’s media adviser, Mr Sanjaya Baru, said: “After having constituted the committee (in March last year), the PMO has not been involved with its functioning”. The seven-member committee was given 15 months to submit its report.
In his statement, Mr Mahmood said the information the panel had sought about Muslims did not pertain to only those in the armed forces. “The committee also denies the media report that specifically mentions (that) information (had been sought) about the level and number of Muslims in the Army. In fact, the committee is deeply upset to see these references associated with the media,” the statement read. Stressing that it was fully aware of and valued the intrinsic importance of the armed forces, the committee said there was no way it would ever ask any question that might in any manner be even “remotely prejudicial to the interests of the nation which must always remain supreme”.