February 22, 2020
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'Shoot, Scoot, Deny'

Setting the record straight: a response to General V.K. Singh's rejoinder.

'Shoot, Scoot, Deny'

Gen (retd) VK Singh has put out a rejoinder about what he describes as “false and motivated allegations” made against him by the Indian Express, The Hindu and specifically against me as the correspondent of The Hindu who interviewed him recently. Oddly, he chose to put it on the internet and social media, held a chat on twitter based on this rejoinder but did not send it to me, or my newspaper directly, with whom he claims to have a grievance.

Nevertheless, this is an attempt to set the record straight. Not only does Gen (retd) Singh deny that he gave an interview to me but goes on to say that I waylaid him at a friend’s place where I apparently threw some questions at him. Wrong. The interview was set up by his lawyer Vishwajeet Singh and his daughter Mrinalini, and my newspaper approved my travel from Chandigarh to Delhi to enable me to meet the General and do the interview. One does not drive 250 kms just to way lay someone in the hope of being able to pose a few questions!

I also took the precaution of recording all that he said so that he could not back out later. So his claim that he did not say some of the things given out in the interview can be exposed by a mere playback of the recording. He disclosed many more sensitive things but my newspaper took an editorial decision not to go public with that information in the larger interest of maintaining peace in Jammu and Kashmir.

Since the General had made serious allegations against two persons in this interview, it was incumbent upon me to contact them for their responses to the allegations. Their counter to his allegations were duly inserted into his interview, which is probably what he describes as “falsehoods, distortions and halftruths”. We see it as good journalism.

Nowhere in my story have I said that the TSD gave the off air interceptors to the 15 Corps. All I have said that the 15 Corps did receive this equipment (Not from TSD) but sent it back because it was found unfit for use in counter insurgency Ops as they were not only receivers but also emitters. It was important to include this bit, which I learnt from my sources, because the army’s enquiry against the TSD (as reported in newspapers) details that two such interceptors were used by the TSD to illegally eavesdrop on government functionaries in Delhi and Jammu. The TSD was not authorised to possess this equipment. When the eavesdropping became public, the interceptors were destroyed and dumped into the Chenab, according to the army enquiry report.

General VK Singh alleged in his conversation with me, that the two interceptors in question were actually in possession of Lt Gen Tejinder Singh the then Director General Defence Intelligence (DGDI). He alleged that since they were found to be unserviceable they had been shown as destroyed by Lt Gen (retd) Tejinder Singh, and later sold to a private Singapore based company. Lt Gen (retd) Tejinder Singh countered this by asking the General to substantiate his allegations by providing proof of this to the investigating agencies. That I gave space to Lt Gen (retd) Tejinder Singh’s (who had last year filed a defamation suit against the former Army Chief for other allegations) responses is possibly what has irked the General and prompted this tirade.

I also suspect that his ire is more over the fact that I, as the wife of an army officer who is much junior to him, has had the temerity to do an independent, unbiased report based on facts instead of the coloured version he wanted me to put out. In the hierarchy- bound Army, wives of army officers are expected to be just as subordinate to seniors as their husbands are. I was forced to remind the General’s media managers, who have accused me of “backstabbing” through text messages and have threatened me with dire consequences since then, that I do not work for the General and am merely doing my job as a responsible journalist. 

I have also learnt— the hard way— in the last two days that the General and his spin doctors have no use for fair and impartial journalists. They see conspiracies where there aren’t any and think that everyone in the media is either for sale (read those who are critical of the general) or can be intimidated into force- swallowing everything that they claim is the ‘real truth’.

I have known Gen (retd) VK Singh since April 2012 when I first met him to do an interview for Outlook magazine where I then worked. I have had a first hand experience of his intimidating tactics with the media even then, because he suddenly threatened to withdraw the interview if it was not put on the cover of the magazine.

In his quest for a political career, this army officer, who otherwise has a reputation for being upright and straightforward, has sadly entered the game of peddling lies, double speak and insinuations, in the same manner as the politicians he has been critical of in the past. Shoot, scoot, deny. The metamorphoses from peaked cap to khadi topi is complete.

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