Armed forces veteran writes, ‘Idea of paying extortion money to Army welfare fund is dangerous development’


‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ finally secured freedom on the promise of payment of Rs 5 crore into the Army Welfare Fund. A result of negotiations brokered by Maharashtra chief minister at his house between the MNS supremo and the president of the Film Producer’s Association.

With this announcement, India has finally walked out of the shadows of democracy and plunged straight into jungle raj. The media is silent for obvious reasons as their collective conscience was mortgaged long ago. The men in uniform have no guts to speak up against the grave damage caused by the suggestion of accepting what’s essentially extortion money for the Army welfare fund. It is a dangerous development and I’m shocked there isn’t much hue and cry over this suggestion.

Now contrast this jingoism to another announcement made on Saturday. The Indian Hockey Federation has now decided to play against Pakistan in Malaysia for the Asian Championship Trophy. If the excitement around the just concluded Kabaddi World Cup is anything to go by, the event will be covered live by major national TV channels, who will rake in money.

We don’t know yet as to how much ransom amount has the Hockey Federation of India and TV channels agreed to contribute to the Army welfare fund and the MNS goons? The MNS and the central government should now release a broader parameter for such extortion money to be paid in future should one wish to engage with Pakistan on any front.

That’s because while we’ve singled out the Bollywood for punishment, our trade ties with Pakistan hasn’t taken a hit. It’s business as usual.

Truth has no contradiction but false nationalism will be rejected by itself. One wonders if India’s policy will be formulated and driven by street thugs? Karan Johar has paid legitimate tax to the government and it is his natural expectation that in return he expects the government to provide protection to his business against the goons and modern-day mafias like MNS.

In the 1930s, Hitler started collecting ransom or extortion money to drive his ultra nationalist agenda. His party served ultimatum to small and medium scale business houses to face vandalism and physical assault if they didn’t pay for the national cause. I see no difference today in the MNS’ demand for extortion.

I am appalled at the deafening silence of the Defence Minister, Gen VK Singh (former army chief) and Rajvardhan Rathore (also a former soldier). No one has the courage to even speak against the diktat, severely hurting the honour and dignity of the Indian army. Manohar Parrikar has had plenty of time to carry out dirty campaign against Aamir Khan, but he appears to be preoccupied with other pressing matters on the extortion money being pledged for Indian soldiers.

As a retired Air Force officer, I thought that lathi charge on veterans on 14 August at Jantar Mantar was the lowest that India could have gone to, but this extortion money for the Army welfare has hit a newer low.

(Squadron Leader (Retd) Khalid Ehsan former Indian Air Force officer. Views expressed here are the author’s own)