The defence ministry spokesperson apologised for the tweet and said it was "inadvertent".
An "inadvertent" tweet by the official spokesperson of the defence ministry has sparked angry reactions from veterans of the armed forces. The spokesperson who runs the defence ministry's official handle, was reacting to a remark made by gallantry award winning former navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash.
The controversy began with a tweet by someone objecting to the use of a flag on the bonnet of the Internal Financial Advisor appointed to the Western Command of the Army in Chandimandir in Haryana's Panchkula district. The officer is a civilian and isn't allowed to use flags on their vehicles, a right reserved for armed forces officers.
Responding to this, the former Navy Chief, Admiral Arun Prakash, a war hero and naval aviator tweeted, ''Even if misuse of an Army Command's insignia by a civilian is not a cognisable offence, the person needs to be reprimanded".'
Reacting to this, the defence ministry's spokesperson replied from the official handle, "What about misuse of jawans in your residence during an officer's tenure sir? And how about children being picked up and dropped to school in Fauji (military) gaadis (vehicles)? Not to forget Madam's shopping expedition on government vehicles. And endless parties…who pays for that?"
This resulted in protests from retired veterans.
"This is indeed shameful for @SpokespersonMoD to tweet this to a former Service Chief," retired Air Vice Marshall Manmohan Bahadur wrote on Twitter.
"Is it allowed to be done under Official handle. It is dangerous to have such people to project us & our relationship with others" tweeted retired Lt General KJ Singh.
Former Navy Chief Arun Prakash chose not to respond to the spokesperson's rude reply to him and instead urged the ministry to "reflect" on the state of civil-military relations.
"Rather than getting excited over indiscreet tweet of @SpokespersonMoD I would suggest sober reflection; (a) by MoD on state of civil-mil (military) relations & (b) by Military Leadership on the aspersions cast by MoD (IDAS?) civil-servant on personal conduct of Service officers.,'' he said.
Facing outrage, the defence ministry spokesperson apologised for the tweet and said it was "inadvertent".
In a reply to Air Vice Marshal (Retired) Manmohan Bahadur, the spokesperson said, "The tweet was inadvertently done and the same is deeply regretted please".
However, this wasn't enough to stem the anger of former military personnel.
A retired Major General Harsha Kakar said, "Is this inadvertent. It shows the true colours of your MoD Madam. You are meant to protect the military, not insult it. Keeping this spokesperson is an insult to India, its armed forces and their sacrifices. It shows no respect for senior veterans. Your spokesperson is a disaster."
He further attributed the tweet to the bureaucracy's "jealousy" towards the armed forces.
"You are forgetting her vehicle, CSD (canteen) privileges, army passes for occasions and many more. It is actually the jealousy and hatred of the bureaucracy which is manifested. How can you expect an MoD so staffed filled with vengeance to ever work for the betterment of the mil (military)," he tweeted.
According to Navdeep Singh, a lawyer who specialises in cases related to military personnel, the spokesperson's tweet reflected the anti-military sentiment of the civilian staff in the ministry of defence.
"Even if inadvertent, it has brought out the innermost sentiment and the reality how the military is perceived by civilian staff in the ministry. The MoD needs to learn from the professionalism & maturity of the @HMOIndia vis-a-vis the CAPFs (central armed police forces). Never too late," Mr Singh, who was a Major with the Indian Territorial Army, tweeted.