Did Nirmala Sitharam and her ministry lie on insulting top ranking officers of Indian armed forces? Reality check!

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Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her ministry on Tuesday were involved in Twitter spat with social media users, who accused both of lying on alleged insults meted out to the senior members of armed forces.

Nirmala Sitharaman

 

The controversy began after the official Twitter handle of the spokesperson for the ministry of defence posted a tweet of Sitharaman holding talks with senior officials on the preparations to tackle the cyclone Ockhi, which wreaked havoc in parts of south India, leaving dozens dead.

In the photo posted by the MoD spokesperson’s Twitter handle, while Sitharaman and other civil servants were seen seated, top ranking officials to the rank of Vice Admiral were seen standing. Srivatsa, head of Congress party’s social media team in Karnataka, asked Sitharaman, “Why is a senior naval officer, a vice-admiral, made to stand as a supplicant? Is this how you treat our forces.”

The official Twitter handle of Sitharaman’s ministry, @DefenceMinIndia, acknowledged his concern but denied the allegations of insults being meted out to top ranking Indian Navy officials. Its tweet said, “Shri Srivatsa, your concern is absolutely justified. In this case however, picture taken is right at the beginning of officers entering the room. As soon as RM @nsitharaman saw officers standing,she directed bringing chairs & the officers were seated for rest of the meeting.”

Srivatsa was quick to counter the Raksha Mantri’s claims by posting another photo of the same meeting taken from a different angle. In this photo too, the naval officers were seen standing.

He wrote, “This is the same meeting. There are no extra chairs. Please stop lying and respect our armed forces”

This prompted Sitharaman to get involved in the conversation, where she too denied the allegations of lying while adding that she had asked for the extra chairs.

She wrote, “Sorry, there is absolutely no lying. I started my conversation even as I had asked for chairs. Photos from different sides were taken even as all this was happening.”

Sitharaman implied that the naval officers were made to seat in the end but it was the photographer’s fault not to have captured that moment in his or her frame. Neither the minister nor her ministry’s official Twitter handle posted any photo to substantiate their claims.

The ministry of defence’s official Twitter handle had posted a tweet of Sitharaman’s meeting with Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and other officials. In this photo, the naval officers were indeed shown seated but this was a different meeting, held a day later. The photo where the naval officers were seen standing was posted on 3 December at 5.37 PM, while the photo of the meeting with Kerala CM was posted a day later on 4 December at 11.54 AM. While one meeting was in Kerala, another was in Tamil Nadu.

Ironically, the insult to the top ranking members of the Indian armed forces comes at a time when the Indian government has gone overboard in celebrating Armed Forces Week to honour the sacrifices made by soldiers. Not so long ago, Sitharaman was accused of promoting PayTM when she publicly asked people to donate for soldiers using PayTM.

Paytm owner Vijay Sharma has widely been linked to Prime Minister Narendra Modi with some even suggesting that the the latter’s controversial announcement on demonetisation was made to benefit the former’s e-wallet company.

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