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Above: The two pictures above, shared on Twitter by the Srinagar unit of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), tell a story of unity amid diversity in the force that is securing lives and property in troubled Srinagar. The picture, shared on Saturday, shows a Muslim CRPF jawan at his afternoon prayers, while his partner (possibly a Hindu) stands guard. This unity defies the current political rhetoric against tolerance that is inciting violence around the country. (Picture: courtesy CRPF)

Emphasising on the plurality that was India’s construct, 114 veterans of India’s Armed Forces, have written an open letter to the Centre and the states, pointing out, what they call are, “recent developments in the country”

Letters have been mailed to the Prime Minister, Chief Ministers, and Lieutenant Governors (in all cases where email addresses were publicly available), the veterans claim.

They say that the Armed Forces represent pluralism. “Differences in religion or caste or language make no difference to our esprit de corps, and we have always fought shoulder to shoulder for the defence of our nation. We are one family.”

And the reason the letter was sent out was that they felt “distressed at recent developments in our country, which go against the secular and democratic values enshrined in our Constitution.

“This open letter,” they say, “expresses our anguish at the lynching of citizens by cow vigilantes, the muzzling of media outlets, the silencing of dissent by characterising it as sedition, and the general climate of suspicion and hate in the country.”

What they are looking forward to through this letter are “feedback and further dialogue”

The following is the text of the letter, verbatim.

An Open Letter from Veterans of the Armed Forces

To: the Prime Minister of India, Chief Ministers of the States, and Lieutenant-Governors of the Union Territories.

30 July, 2017

We are a group of Veterans of the Indian Armed Forces who have spent our careers working for the security of our country. Collectively, our group holds no affiliation with any single political party, our only common commitment being to the Constitution of India.

It saddens us to write this letter, but current events in India have compelled us to register our dismay at the divisiveness that is gripping our country. We stand with the ‘Not in My Name’ campaign that mobilised thousands of citizens across the country to protest against the current climate of fear, intimidation, hate and suspicion.

The Armed Forces stand for “Unity in Diversity”. Differences in religion, language, caste, culture or any other marker of belonging have not mattered to the cohesion of the Armed Forces, and servicemen of different backgrounds have fought shoulder to shoulder in the defence of our nation, as they continue to do today. Throughout our service, a sense of openness, justice and fair play guided our actions. We are one family. Our heritage is like the multi-coloured quilt that is India, and we cherish this vibrant diversity.

However, what is happening in our country today strikes at all that the Armed Forces, and indeed our Constitution, stand for. We are witness to unprecedented attacks on society at large by the relentless vigilantism of self-appointed protectors of Hinduism. We condemn the targeting of Muslims and Dalits. We condemn the clampdowns on free speech by attacks on media outlets, civil society groups, universities, journalists and scholars, through a campaign of branding them anti-national and unleashing violence against them while the State looks away.

We can no longer look away. We would be doing a disservice to our country if we do not stand up and speak for the liberal and secular values that our Constitution espouses. Our diversity is our greatest strength. Dissent is not treason; in fact, it is the essence of democracy.

We urge the powers that be at the Centre and in the States to take note of our concerns and urgently act to uphold our Constitution, both in letter and in spirit.

Signatories (in alphabetical order of last name)

Lt Col EN Ambre
Brig VKS Antony
Maj MK Apte
Col CT Arasu
Lt Col Israr Asghar
Cdr CR Babu
Lt Cdr PS Bal
Lt Cdr Rakeh Bali
Maj Gen Dipankar Banerjee
Lt Gen CA Barretto
Brig Noel Barretto
Col TS Bedi
Surg Cdr P Bellubi
Petty Off Gajanan Bhat IN
Cdr PG Bhat
Gp Capt AV Bhagwat
Col V Bopiah
Maj Gen PR Bose
Vice Adm A Britto
Col RT Chacko
Lt Col M Chandrasekhar
Cdre R Clarke
Col KS Choudhry
Brig TPS Chowdhury
Brig Dileep Deore
Col Samuel Dhar
Lt Gen FT Dias
Lt Col AP Durai
Gp Capt MP Elangovan
Maj Gen Shyamal Ghosh
Col V Nanda Gopal
Cdre EC Govindan
Col V Govindarajan
Col RP Grover
Cdre PC Gulati
Cdr M Hari
Lt Col Muzaffar Hasan
Brig Prem Hejmadi
AVM Kapil Kak
Col AT Kalghatgi
Maj Gen MPS Kandal
Col MS Kapoor
Maj Gen TK Kaul
Lt Col PB Keskar
Lt Col V Kharkar
Wg Cdr R Khosla
Brig Anil Malhotra
Col Arun Malhotra
Lt Col RC Malhotra
Brig GK Malik
Cdre G Menezes
Wg Cdr SN Metrani
Maj GN Misra
AVM RP Misra
Col Biman Mistry
Col RB Mistry
Col AK Mitra
Col Pradip Mitra
Maj Gen H Mukherji
Maj Gen RPRC Naidu
Col Pavan Nair
Lt Col VK Nair
Col RLV Nath
Cdr M Nirmal
Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi
Rear Adm Alan O’Leary
Air Cdre Tanpat Pannu
Lt Col Niraj Pant
Col RC Patial
Cdr Hector Poppen
Capt Subbarao Prabhala IN
Brig Ranjit Prasad
Brig VHM Prasad
Wg Cdr KV Raghuram
Brig RS Rajan
Col SS Rajan
Cdr SM Rajeshwar
Air Marshal Philip Rajkumar
Col TN Raman
Admiral L Ramdas
Vice Adm IC Rao
Col TK Ravindranath
Air Marshal DS Sabhikhi
Lt Col Nagaraj Sastry
Lt Gen KM Seth
Col PD Shah
Brig Baqir Shameem
Lt Gen YN Sharma
Lt Col HD Shirmane
Vice Adm MR Schunker
Cdr MA Somana
Brig Amardeep Singh
Gp Capt DR Singh
Brig Joginder Singh
Brig Mastinder Singh
Cdr Rajiv Singh
Col Salam K Singh
Col S Srikantha
Brig M Sudandiram
Flt Lt R Suresh
Sgt MN Subramani
Lt Cdr P Subramanyam
Maj Gen L Tahliani
Cdr SP Taneja
Cdr TP Tharian
Lt Col JK Thomas
Cdr M Thomas
Cdr N Tripathy
Air Marshal NV Tyagi
Capt AK Varma
Wg Cdr BJ Vaz
Maj Rajah Velu
Lt Col R Venugopal
Maj Gen SG Vombatkere

— India Legal Bureau

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