Scrap the constitution: The Field Marshal’s vision of India

The early 1970 saw Indian being embroiled in a major controversy triggered by none other than the first Indian to head the Indian Army, General and later to be made Field Marshal, KM Cariappa.

Speaking informally to the press at Dhanbad in March of 1970, the General had advocated in favor of Military rule in the country. Neither the media, nor the political establishment took lightly of these remarks, which were interpreted as his call for a military coup in the country.

The General was severely criticised in the parliament for his remarks. And a few days later, the press reported that Cariappa met with Home Minister, Speaker of Lok Sabha and newly elected Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and apologized for his views. Cariappa however denied these claims, saying that he had not moved “an inch” from what he had said.

It was then he typed a four paged letter to clarify his stand to the public. Recently the note was accessed from Karnataka’s state archives and The Indian Express in a report has published the contents of it.

As per the reports, Cariappa saw the military rule as a process to restore what he deemed as “purest form” of democracy. The General was adverse to the idea of states carved out on linguistic basis. Accusing the linguistic states for sounding “the death-knell for the unity of the country,” he proposed dividing “India into zones for administrative and economic convenience on the lines of the Army, such as Army Commands, Army Areas, Army Sub-areas and so on”.

He also believed that only three political parties, equivalents to the Labour, Liberal, Conservative, should function in the country instead of a large number of them. He advocated scrapping of the current constitution and its replacement by a new one following a “President’s cum military rule” which would restore law and order.

In the note, he asserts that his proposal of “President’s cum Military rule is not to be a permanent thing. It is to be only temporary until normalcy returns.”

He however ruled out the prospects of a military coup. He instead maintained, that people should have the right to choose military rule, if they believed it to be a more secured alternative. He adds in the same vein that “there can never be, nor will there ever be, a Military Coup in India”.

He goes on to mention three points for ruling out military coup in the country, “vastness of the country; the three services are separate and have their own chiefs; and, the “heterogeneity of the Communities in the service would not be conducive to provide for a homogenous outlook in this respect.”

It is believed that the Indian political establishment remained suspicious of Cariappa’s political views and hence kept him away from the nation by posting him as High Commissioner to foreign countries.

He was promoted to the position of Field Marshal by the Rajiv Gandhi government in 1986.