Ajay Banerjee, Tribune News Service
New Delhi, March 3. Lt-Gen Bikram Singh, in the past two years, faced at least three events that could have held him back.
He cleared them all exposing the manner in which senior officers running for top posts are hounded by persons inimical to them.
The most dangerous rumour spread about him was that his daughter-in-law was a Pakistani citizen. Several MPs, probably backed by his rivals, sent out complaints about the woman’s citizenship.
She is married to the elder son of Lt-Gen Bikram Singh and the young couple lives in the US. “Potential security implications” were cited to hold back his appointment as Chief of Army Staff.
The matter was sorted out only after Indian external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), was asked for a report.
The Appointments Committee of Cabinet was informed, on the basis of a R&AW report, that General Bikram Singh’s daughter-in-law is an American citizen. Her father is an Afghan and mother is from Central Asia.
Before this, two other attempts were made to shoot down his candidature. In January this year, Lt Gen Bikram Singh was accused of staging a fake encounter when he was posted as Brigadier in the Rashtriya Rifles in South Kashmir’s Anantnag town in March 2001. The case mysteriously cropped up. An NGO, Yes Kashmir, filed a petition with the police and a woman, Zaituna, approached the J&K High Court in 2011 — 10 years after the incident in which one foreign militant Mateen Chacha was killed.
Lt-Gen (then Brigadier) Bikram Singh was injured while Colonel JP Jam, had died in the shoot-out that occurred in the Janglat Mandi area of Anantnag.
General Bikram Singh got a clean chit when the SSP Anantnag, also impleaded as a party in the case, told the court that the matter needed no further investigation as the case stood already established against the deceased foreign militant.
Denying that the encounter was fake as claimed by the petitioner’s family, the J&K police said the particulars of the militant had been confirmed on the basis of material evidence that included an identity card found on his person.
The third hurdle was equally serious. An Army Court of Inquiry (CoI) was conducted last year. It looked at documents and cross-examined 51 soldiers to verify if they were guilty of sexual misconduct during their year-long posting on a UN peacekeeping mission to Congo in 2008.
These men faced charges of rape and also fraternising with the local population, all forbidden by Indian military law and the UN code of conduct. Lt Gen Bikram Singh had headed the Congo mission for a part of the period.
The CoI ruled out rape. The relationships (with Congolese women) were found to have been paid for or were consensual.