Exclusive: 'Instead of booking the culprits, the complainant is being crucified’
Mrinalini Singh, Gen VK Singh’s daughter, in conversation with Hardnews
Akash Bisht Delhi
It’s an overcast Delhi evening, the sound of the army bugles linger in the air as soldiers carefully, with great dignity, lower and fold the national flag at Army House, the official residence of the Chief of Army Staff. After securing the flag, the soldiers march their way through a synchronised routine.
In one of the gardens of the sprawling compound, Mrinalini Singh sits with a psychology book. “I have an exam tomorrow. If I fail, I won’t be able to face my family,” she says, with a bright smile. The eldest of Army Chief Gen VK Singh’s two daughters, 30-year-old Mrinalini has held a brave front, defending her father’s decision to fight it out. A psychologist and an MBA graduate from Symbiosis, Pune, she is married to Lt Colonel Sangram Singh, currently posted in Sudan.
Considered one of the strongest proponents of Gen VK Singh’s cause, Mrinalini feels that her father has been denied justice. “I don’t know why everyone has ganged up against him. Don’t lady officers approach the court when denied justice? Rules are rules, so why is he being castigated? Why should rules and justice not apply to him?” she asks.
Not shying away from blaming former army chief Gen JJ Singh (now Governor of Arunachal Pradesh) for the entire controversy, she says, “I have no hesitation in spelling out the truth and the truth is that JJ Singh wanted to create a line of succession and my father was made a scapegoat.” Accusing him of conspiring against her father, she wonders why Gen JJ Singh did not resolve the ‘age issue’ when he was the army chief. “He assured my father that he would take care of it, but he didn’t. Was it intentional? No one knows, but the truth should come out.”
Soon after the results of the selection board for lieutenant generals were declassified, Mrinalini recounts that the then military secretary, Lt Gen Richard Khare, informed VK Singh about the discrepancy in the records regarding his year of birth. The military secretariat and the adjutant general’s branch had listed 1951 as his birth year. But the ‘Army List’ mentioned 1950 as his year of birth, leading to the controversy.
According to Mrinalini, Gen JJ Singh coerced VK Singh to sign the letter. “He told my father that it was a minor error and will be sorted out. My father obliged for the greater good and they backstabbed him.”
Mrinalini is unhappy over the apex court’s response to the General’s complaint: “They said that wise men move with the wind. By that logic, if everyone is corrupt, does it mean that he should be doing the same?”
The mention of Tejinder Singh and the Tatra deal infuriates an otherwise calm Mrinalini. “He had complained to the Raksha Mantri, and then nothing happened. My father was disturbed with the inaction and decided to let it out in the open.”
Talk of corruption and she pounces on the subject. She believes it to be the root of all problems in India. Praising the Anna Hazare movement, she
is in favour of their demand to protect the whistle-blowers. “Anna is asking for it, but the government is sceptical. My father is a whistle-blower and instead of being protected, he is being dragged into the court for exposing this mammoth scam. Why isn’t the government coming to his aid?”
She also questions Lt Gen Tejinder Singh’s (retired) intentions, “Is he doing this at the behest of someone in the government? He has close links with the government and we don’t. This is not the first time that someone has raised fingers over Tatra trucks. People violating norms should be brought to justice and this is what my father tried to do.”
“Can a General take action against defence PSUs? You haven’t even sacked BEML chief Natrajan and the whole world is out there to blame the General. Instead of booking the culprits, the complainant is being crucified. Is this justice in a perverted sense?” asks Mrinalini. “We don’t want the chair or an extended tenure. We want justice.”
Sceptical about what the future has in store, she feels that the government’s dirty tricks department could come into play after May 31, 2011. “They are already spreading malicious rumours about us.”
She quashes rumours about her family members joining a political outfit or Team Anna. “I don’t subscribe to Anna’s style of working, but his cause is right. Anyway, we are an apolitical family, so the chances are very bleak.”
It’s getting dark. Mrinalini insists that she has to prepare for her exam that is giving her sleepless nights. “I will stand by my dad. As a child it is my duty to protect my father,” she says, before disappearing inside the palatial house.