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Army chief against recruitment by religion

Gen Singh said that every citizen had an equal chance to serve in uniform.

india Updated: Feb 13, 2006 15:31 IST

Indian Army chief Gen JJ Singh on Monday vehemently opposed the Government's move to gather information of the number of Muslims in the armed forces.

Gen Singh said that every citizen had an equal chance to serve in uniform.

"Our system for entry into the armed forces and for enrolment is based on merit and on the ability to perform the task that might be assigned," the army chief said on the sidelines of a defence function in this Andhra Pradesh coastal town.

"We never have this kind of a thing like where you come from, what language do you speak or what religion you believe in.

"That's always been our policy. We're apolitical, secular and we are a professional force. That's the way I would like to look at it," Singh added, as the controversy over the Government's move seemed set to intensify.

"Like I said when I became the chief, I'm an Indian first. Therefore, we should be looking at all Indians getting a fair chance and an equal chance of joining the armed forces," Singh asserted.

A seven-member committee, appointed by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and headed by Rajinder Sachar, a former chief justice of the Delhi and Sikkim high courts, had in March asked the three wings of the armed forces to provide data on the number of Muslims in their ranks, the positions they held and their role in some key operations.

The army objected to this, saying it would send the wrong signals in what is traditionally a secular apolitical organisation.

The PMO reportedly overruled the objection, saying the survey formed part of the government's efforts to promote minority welfare by studying the social, economic and educational status of Muslims in India.

Two opposition politicians on Sunday questioned the survey being conducted on Muslims in the armed forces, describing it, as disturbing and saying it would weaken the morale of the men and women in uniform.

"There can be no minority and majority in armed forces. Whoever is floating these ideas is working to weaken the forces and break their morale," said former Defence Minister and National Democratic Alliance (NDA) convener George Fernandes in a statement.

"The Congress party has already divided the nation on the basis of religion. Now, the party is also trying to divide the soldiers of the armed forces on the basis of religion. This is a disturbing trend," said Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Rajnath Singh.

First Published: Feb 13, 2006 15:31 IST