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Army in crisis over saffron terror stain


Vishal Thapar,CNN-IBN
Nov 07, 2008 at 01:02am IST

New Delhi: The arrest of Lt Colonel Shrikant Purohit for his alleged involvement in the Malegaon blast and the possibility of the involvement of more Army personnel is now turning out to be perhaps the biggest image crisis for the Indian Army.

The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad is reportedly preparing to question one more serving Army officer.

ALSO SEE Officer arrested for blast; Army vows no repeats

“If there is anything that spoils the image of Indian Army then it obviously makes us feel bad. We all have immense respect for the Army and it is not just us, the country respects the Army too,” Deputy Chief of Army Staff Lt General SPS Dhillon said.

Investigations by the Maharashtra Police threaten to blow apart the Indian Army's secular credentials.

A robustly secular image is central to the Indian Army's sensitive role in combating religious extremism in places like Jammu and Kashmir. That image is now under a cloud, and the military community is now beginning to wonder if the Maharashtra Police has been responsible in hurling charges without first collecting credible evidence.

Strategic Affairs Commentator Major General Ashok Mehta said, “If anybody is trying to take advantage of this incident for any political advantages then that will be the single biggest damage that the Government or any political party would do not just to the armed forces but to the country also.”

A sore point with the Army is that the Maharashtra Police has not shared evidence, if it has any.

The frenzied media coverage of these as yet unsubstantiated allegations has left the Army worried as it could severely dent its image as the most powerful instrument in the hands of the state to defend the idea of a plural India.

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