November 24, 2020
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An Open Letter To The Prime Minister

Full text of the letter from the former chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral L.Ramdas (retd), PVSM, AVSM, VrC, VSM to the prime minister of India.

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An Open Letter To The Prime Minister

It is indeed with a heavy heart that I write to my Prime Minister at this time. The recent happenings in Gujarat have completely shaken my confidence in the Government and its capacity to uphold and protect a democratic and secular India.

Growing up in Delhi as a young boy, the senseless slaughter of innocent human beings in 1947 are still vivid in my mind. To see the same happen once again in the year 2002 has been shattering .The entire nation is shocked at the callousness and inefficiency displayed by the law and order machinery of the Government of Gujarat, which not only failed to perform its duty to its citizens, but also stood by and in several cases actually incited what can best be described as a ‘pogrom’. Compare this to the scene indelibly imprinted on my mind, when I saw Mr Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India, hop out of an official car and chase away looters and rioters, who were killing Muslims and looting their properties in Connaught Place in August 1947. He had the courage to intervene personally at that time completely disregarding his own safety.

The democratic and secular traditions of India have been severely endangered by the recent events. In addition, the carnage in Gujarat has created an increasingly negative image of India among people in many parts of the world. Clearly this appears to be the culmination of a planned series of attacks on our minority communities by the extremists within the Sangh Parivar. The entire list is too long to cite here, but to name only a few, the past decade has witnessed the destruction of the Babri Masjid in 1992, which led to the Mumbai bomb blasts and the subsequent massacre of innocent Muslims; the burning alive of Father Staines and his sons in Orissa; and the attacks on Christians and their places of worship in Gujarat and elsewhere. Till today none of those responsible for these acts have been brought to book. It would therefore appear that the government is not serious about bringing the guilty to trial, which is emboldening them to do what they have done in Gujarat.

I am also pained to observe that judging from newspaper reports no one of any stature from the central government has so far visited the affected areas to sympathise with the victims of Gujarat. The media has reported that even in the allocation of compensation for those killed, the Chief Minister of Gujarat has thought it fit to discriminate between the two communities. If true, this is unacceptable and needs to be rectified immediately.

I joined the Navy at the age of fifteen after appearing before a Selection Board just a few months after Independence. My growth in the Navy has coincided with that of the country and I rose to head the Indian Navy from 1993. We have had many distinguished servicemen from the minority communities who have reached the highest ranks in the service.

To name a few: Field Marshal Manekshaw, Marshal of the Air Force, Arjan Singh, Air Chief Marshal Idris Latif, Admirals Cursetji, Pereira and Dawson - all Chiefs of the Indian Navy; the Keelor brothers of the Air Force who both won the Mahavir Chakra; Brigadier Usman, decorated posthumously with the Mahavir Chakra, Lance Naik Albert Ekka – Param Vir Chakra (posthumous), and men like my own steward, M.Ali, who served me faithfully while I was commanding INS Beas in the 1971 operations.

The Indian Armed Forces have always been one of the strongest pillars of our secular democracy. They have maintained their political neutrality and have respected civil authority since Independence despite trends to the contrary in our immediate neighbourhood. They represent a micro-cosm of the diversity of India which has always been its strength. Over the years India has witnessed the steady process of communalization and politicization of our bureaucracy and the police. It would be a tragedy indeed if these processes were to affect the armed forces of this land. This could herald a potentially disastrous and unmanageable situation where our uniformed personnel could find themselves in opposing camps with all its attendant dangers.

Our nation has evolved over the past many thousand years due to the contribution of all sections of society irrespective of their religion, caste or creed. India has always had the courage and the self-confidence to provide all people with the space to co-exist in peace with one another. The present attempts in some quarters to give it an exclusively `Hindu’ image is to do a grave injustice to our composite history and heritage. If SIMI could be banned, I see no difficulty in doing likewise for the groups like the VHP,Bajrang Dal and others whose acts of wanton violence are no less offensive, anti national and anti people.

The stated intention of the VHP to go ahead with its plans at Ayodhya on March 15th are ominous indeed. The government must intervene immediately to ensure that the planned `symbolic’ Bhoomi Puja does not take place. Permitting this now would only lend weight to any subsequent claim for commencing construction of the temple. I would therefore urge that all parties await the decision of the Supreme Court about the entire case.

In order to demonstrate our will to uphold our Constitution I would recommend the following actions by the Government :

Constitute a Commission of Enquiry by a Bench of three sitting judges from the Supreme Court of India to look into the entire sequence of events beginning with the tragedy on the train to the subsequent massacre of minorities in Gujarat.

  1. Bring to book all the guilty persons including politicians, bureaucrats and police personnel who have been directly responsible for dereliction of duty.

  2. Dismiss Shri Mody as Chief Minister of Gujarat for his hand in the ethnic cleansing he has orchestrated and impose Presidents Rule in the State.

  3. Ban extremist rightwing organizations like the VHP, Bajrang Dal , and the RSS as has been done with SIMI.

  4. The planned Bhoomi Puja should not be permitted in Ayodhya

  5. Set up refugee camps immediately for those who have been dispossessed and initiate a rehabilitation programme that provides neccessary resources, including issue of ration card, to all those displaced from their homes.

  6. Compensation to the families of all victims should be equitable without any discrimination on the basis of community.

As a former Chief of the Indian Navy, and as a concerned citizen, I can no longer remain a silent observer of what is tantamount to ethnic cleansing and genocide of our own people. I urge you to steer the nation firmly away from the path of extremism and fundamentalism of all shades.

I have been frank in expressing my views because this is a moment of collective shame and anguish for all of us who call ourselves Indians . Although, I would have preferred to be able to share my concerns with you in person, I am currently on a lecture tour in the USA and unable to call on you.

As the leader of the world’s largest democracy and as a man gifted with reason and vision, you are in a position to make a difference. I sincerely hope that you will.

With Highest Regards,
Sincerely Yours,
L. Ramdas

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