Senior Indian Army officers offer Namaz in Kashmir, shut trolls down

The Indian Army’s social media team had been criticised, since April 21, after it deleted a photo of an Iftar party held in Doda district of Jammu


A picture is worth a thousand words, the Indian Army has banked on that to undo the faux pas that was unleashed by the social media team handling its Twitter account. A recently released photo showing namaz being offered by senior officers of the Indian Army led by Lt Gen DP Pandey is now winning hearts online. Lt Gen DP Pandey, is seen sitting in prayer with other senior officers inside a mosque in Srinagar, an image that is being hailed for sending a public message of communal harmony. 



There is a backstory too. The Indian Army’s social media team had been on the receiving end of massive criticism, from social media users, including veteran officers, since April 21, when the defence ministry’s Public Relations Officer (PRO) deleted a photo of an Iftar party held in Doda district of Jammu. The Army’s Twitter handle had captioned that image: “Keeping alive the traditions of secularism, an Iftar was organised by the Indian Army at Arnora in Doda district”. The pictures of the Indian Army’s General Officer Commanding the Delta Force interacting with local Muslims and a uniformed person offering namaz in the gathering was a rare insight into the efforts at harmony and peace made by the army and civilians.:  

However such camaraderie, especialy involving the Muslim community will put trolls out of business. On cue Sudarshan News CMD and editor-in-chief, anti-Muslim hate speech speciais Suresh Chavhanke tweeted, “Ab ye bimari Bhartiya sena mein bhi ghuss gayi hai? Dukhad… (Now this disease has spread even in the Indian Army? Sad).”



Instead of combating the troll, the army PR handle was quick to delete that photo of communal harmony after it was taunted by the communal hate speech maker.  Suresh Chavhanke’s taunt had also let loose trolling by the right-wing social media users as always. 

The ‘secular’ image of the Army was dimmed on social media, as a result of the quick deletion. Veteran army officers recalled their days in service where communal harmony was the norm in the service to the nation. According to Retired officer Maj Gen Yash Mor, “Indian Army has been at the forefront of interfaith harmony. We as officers take pride in the fact that we have NO religion, we just adopt the religion of the troops we command.” Civilian social media users expressed disappointment that the right wing trolls had managed to get the photographs of an Iftar party held by the Army in the Doda district of Jammu taken off.  

There was no official response from the army, or its social media team. Its alacrity in responding to Chavhanke remains to be explained. Chavhanke has in the past donned ‘army uniform’ patterned clothes to gain social media likes. This is perhaps the first time he has openly mocked the army.



Later, on April 25 the Army released photographs showing General Officer Commanding, Chinar Corps Lt Gen DP Pandey offering Namaz prayers along with other senior officers. According to the Army’s media statement, a meeting was organised at Old Air Field, Srinagar under the aegis of Headquarter Victor Force chaired by GOC, Chinar Corps, Lt Gen DP Pandey and “the evening concluded with an Iftar party followed by Namaz. Everyone attending the meeting expressed their sense of satisfaction towards the Army’s effort to reach out to them and welcomed such initiatives in the future too,” stated news reports citing the army spokesman. A book titled “House of Terror” was also released. According to a report in The Outlook the book is the story of an ex militant named Anwar who became “Ikhwan”. The Ikhwan are often considered a pro-government militia by the locals, also known as “naabedh” stated the report. These men are “mostly former Kashmiri militants who have surrendered to the army”.

Lieutenant General Devendra Pratap Pandey AVSM, VSM, is a well known senior officer who has often interacted with locals in the areas under his command. According to news reports, he had also attended Namaz-e-Maghrib with soldiers of Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry Regimental Centre in Srinagar in 2021. He is the General-Officer-Commanding of the Srinagar-based Chinar Corps. However, according to a report in the Greater Kashmir news portan there will be a change of Command at 15 Corps headquarters of Army on May 9. Lt Gen D S Aujla will take over as the new General Officer Commanding and Lt Gen D P Pandey will leave for his next posting as Commandant Army War College Mhow, Madhya Pradesh.



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