The Army’s now-deleted social media post contained images of uniformed officers breaking fast and praying with local Muslim residents in Jammu and Kashmir’s Doda district.

Representative image of Armed Forces officials on dutyRepresentative | PTI
news Controversy Sunday, April 24, 2022 - 11:17

The Indian Army landed in a controversy over a tweet about communal harmony at an Iftar party in Jammu and Kashmir’s Doda district. On April 20, the official handle of PRO Defence Jammu had tweeted pictures of Army officials and residents breaking the Ramzan fast together and interacting with each other, with the caption, “Keeping alive the traditions of secularism, an Iftar was organised by the Indian Army at Arnora in Doda district.”

However, hours later, Suresh Chavhanke — editor-in-chief of the Hindi news channel Sudarshan News — targeted the Army’s message by saying, “Now this disease has spread to even the Army? Sad (sic).” Chavhanke is known for his incendiary comments and has been booked for hate speech in the past. He had also attended the Dharma Sansad in Haridwar earlier in 2022, in which open calls to murder those from the Muslim community were made. Hours after Chavhanke’s comment, the Defence PRO deleted the tweet.

The tweet in question had images of civilians and Army officials breaking Ramzan fast together, an official offering namaaz with Muslim residents of Doda, and an Army General interacting with other civilians. Though an Army spokesperson declined to comment on the issue, an officer on the condition of anonymity told PTI that the force had not only tweeted about the function, but also issued an official release as Iftar parties are a regular feature during the fasting month of Ramzan to build a strong bond with the public. “It was surprising and sad to see the reaction of certain people to the tweet, which triggered an unnecessary debate, killing the basic message of upholding communal harmony,” the officer said.

The removal of the tweet from the Army handle did not go down well with veteran soldiers. “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 (sic),” Maj Gen (retd) Yash Mor tweeted.

Several social media users also pointed out that Chavhanke “bullied” the Army into deleting the tweet. “We kept saying the likes of Suresh Chavhanke don't matter. But now they have the power to bully the Indian army into deleting a tweet on Iftar,” journalist Stuti N Mishra said. 

Mohit Bhan, the spokesperson of the J&K People’s Democratic Party, said, “World's second largest Army surrendered to a scumbag named Suresh Chavhanke. India needs its institutions to stand-up not succumb to hate campaigns.”

The spokesperson of the Peace Party of India, Shadab Chauhan, condemning the Army’s move to delete the tweet, said, “it's really disgusting that @prodefencejammu scared from hate mongers and enemies of harmony like @SureshChavhanke and delete the post of iftar party. Nation wants to know why u didn't stand bravely in front of communal goons? Why u surrender in front of them? (sic).”

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