Saturday, September 21, 2013



This is an article about two Indian express stories. First, the 5 April 2012 story, The January night Raisina Hill was spooked: Two key Army units moved towards Delhi without notifying Govt” (hereinafter COUP) - and the 20 January 2013 report , Unit set up by V K Singh used secret funds to try and topple J&K govt, block Bikram Singh: Army probe, (hereinafter TSD)

The two scripts were crafted “with extreme care and caution” ostensibly to narrate the “current state of top-level politico-military relations”. In both, TSD and COUP, the chief protagonist is General V K Singh and the broadcaster is Shekhar Gupta. On the face of it, the general is the anti-hero, trying to subvert and sabotage the system from within. 

However, the stories are so well spun by the mass media that VK Singh emerges as the victim-hero, and the government as villain - first, for allowing subversion to happen on its watch and secondly for the inordinate delay in carrying out any action against V K Singh’s alleged misdemeanors. 

More importantly, for the public, the government is vindictive, week kneed and lame duck that had lost credibility to rule because even the army was also up in arms against it. One comment on the Indian Express website that tells the general mood among the urban middle class and armed forces community:

It's such a shame that Congress government is using its muscle to strangle the voice of others, few days back general V.K Singh shared the stage with Modi and now inquiry commission is set on his name...!! what did the congress government was doing all this days after the retirement of General V.K Singh, these General is known for his integrity and loyalty towards our mother land...but the issue is with General V.K Singh because he should have shared the stage with Rahul and then by this time Congress must have rewarded him with some hefty post like Governor...!!


COUP and TSD are so designed that they link up two unconnected events to put the government on the mat. 

TSD:-, V K Singh sharing a platform with Narendra Modi is cited as the reason for the government to book V K Singh for extra constitutional espionage. 

COUP - V K Singh’s going to the Supreme Court to sort out his age row is conflated with allegations of the government’s vindictiveness that blames him for engineering a coup. 


It is natural for the reader to assume that V K Singh is not a fool to leak a story that has the potential to portray him as saboteur and as a general who is willing to wreck the system for personal gains. And since the documents leaked to the press are secret and related to national security it is taken for granted the only some politician or bureaucrat could leak it to the newspaper. 

Although at the time of release of ‘COUP’ V K Singh was in service and even post retirement, he enjoys enough clout in the service to know the contents of the Army Headquarters secret reports that has questioned the illegality and extra constitutionality in the functioning of the Technical Services Division (TSD), a controversial Military Intelligence (MI) unit set up by General V K Singh in May 2010.

That the story could also be leaked by V K Singh is a proposition not considered at all by any journalist. 


The question is how V K Singh is able to emerge as a victim-hero - every sin is against V K only. This feat is the work of a well-knit team conceived by anthropologists and seasoned public relations (PR) experts. In both the stories “Black Propaganda” technique has been used. 

Black propaganda is false information and material that claims to be from a source on one side of a conflict, but is actually from the opposing side. In our case, the two foes are V K Singh and the Indian Government. V K Singh is the perpetrator of the Black propaganda and Government is the target. 

Here Shekhar Gupta acts first as a neutral broadcaster and second time as someone hostile to V K Singh. At the time of ‘COUP’ story in 2012, the Indian Express and its editor Shekhar Gupta were good friends. So when the story that had strong undertones of the “C” word appeared on the front pages, it flummoxed many. 

While the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Defence Minister A K Antony had rubbished it as "alarmist" and "baseless", V K Singh in his many post retirement chats with the news channels, described Shekhar Gupta and his COUP story as “Crazy”. (It is the same word that he is using in TSD case too, saying “the charges against me are ‘crazy’.) 

During the interviews, he also reveled that just a few days prior to the appearance of COUP story; he had lunch with Shekhar Gupta where they discussed the unusual troop movement on 16 and 17 January 2012 towards Delhi. The general also complained to the TV anchors that “with these journalists, for them there is nothing off the record". 

In his weekly column, on 22 June 2012, “referring to V K’s interviews, Gupta wrote, 

“It’s tempting to take the general's statement to imply that it liberates me from the "off-record" limitations on my conversations with him. He can lift it for himself. But I am not sure he can do so for connected conversations between me and his close friends and family members who must be entitled to their confidentiality as well. Nevertheless, his point is noted. I will reflect on it. “

The editor in-chief of the newspaper put his name in the byline along with his other colleagues to appear as an unhinged, dispassionate reporter. The story became more believable because in the true spirit of journalism a friend was reporting against the actions of a friend with whom he had lunch a few days back. Although Shekhar got a lot of flak for the story, he took it in his stride. 

The entire episode established Gupta as the anti-VK Singh man, who was now ready for the next phase of the campaign. 

Here one must add that both in 2012 as well as 2013, the Left media too ran positive stories about V K Singh. Endorsement by the left and left leaning retired admirals is akin to Chomsky giving a clean chit to CIA by saying that they did not supply Al Qaeda mercenary army with arms in Syria. 

Another interesting aspect in Shekhar-V K campaigning is that prior to being splashed on the front page, many elements of the Express story had already been published in an article on,“Rediff scooped: How India's elite force was stumped”. (13 March 2012) 

Similarly much before the TSD story came into limelight 03 September 2013, 
V K Singh had extensively talked about the TSD controversy to Nitin Gokhale of NDTV. 


Shekhar-V K Black Campaign uses the government’s report to ultimately put muck on the government’s face. The purpose is to sow suspicion between the Government and the Indian people. It also has a purpose to recruit informants, and create deserters and defectors within the administration. To imagine that Indians are capable of achieving such finesse in their black campaign would perhaps, be fooling one self. This is possibly a small detail in a rather complex game plan to take on the Indian state. 

Whether the story harms V K Singh or the Congress is immaterial? Does all this help the country, is the moot point. 

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