Paid news, then fake news, lies, disinformation, control have all spelt the death knell of free media in India. Threats, abuse, arrest, murder have contributed to terrifying journalists, and muzzling what remains of independent media. In recent years journalists have been killed---Gauri Lankesh heading the list---and locked up in prison under the National Security Act for doing little more than posting criticism of the government in power.

As it is there are so few journalists and meida houses doing the job with levels of integrity that when a politician, terrified by the import of what he might have said, reacts not just by denying his words but abusing the reporter or the media house in question, he/she needs to be condemned by all in the fraternity in the strongest terms.

Most of the time, to give the BJP leaders credit, they make the most outrageous comments about the media and do not even bother to retract it. As they have the impunity, and the sanction to attack the messenger in brutal terms. And when they do retract, it is because unwittingly they have said something right and are terrified of the consequences.

As is the case with Minister V.K.Singh, a former Chief of Army Staff, who clearly does not have the courage to stand by what he said on record, on tape to BBC Hindi. And retracted as soon as his statement was put out, attacking the reporter and asking if he had received money. Really?

Well look at what the general, who once led the Indian Army said, to BBC Hindi. Hear it, its all on tape:

The journalist asks: “There was a statement from Yogi Adityanath in which he had said: ‘This is Modiji’s army’. The Opposition objected to that. How proper do you think the use of this sentence is?”

Singh responds: “Who did he say it for?”

To which the journalist says: “During the campaign.”

Singh says: “During the campaign, everyone calls themselves army. But which army are we talking about, the Indian Army (the interviewer nods and says ‘yes’) or the political workers? I don’t know what the context is.

“If anyone says that the Indian Army is Modiji’s army, then he is not just wrong but also a traitor. India’s army is India’s, not a political party’s. India’s army is neutral, capable and apolitical. I don’t know who is talking like this. There are only one or two people who might think of such things; they don’t have anything else (to say).”

The journalist repeats that the phrase was used in the context of teaching Pakistan a lesson.

Singh insists: “It is not Modiji’s army, let’s be quite clear. If you’re talking about the Indian Army, talk about the Indian Army. If you’re talking about political workers, a lot of times, we call them Modiji’s army or the BJP’s army. But there is a difference between that and the Indian Army. I don’t know what you are saying.”

On Sunday, Adityanath had told an election rally in Singh’s constituency Ghaziabad: “Congresske log aatankwadiyon ko biryani khilate theh aur Modiji ki sena aatankwadiyon ko goli aur gola deti hai (The Congress’s people used to feed biryani to terrorists while Modiji’s army pumps bullets and shells)….” The reference to the Indian Army is clear, unambiguous.

Interestingly, VK Singh’s first response too was clear, unambiguous as he responded like a soldier. But after the import of what he said sunk in he hit out, and perhaps after he was pulled up, he hit out at the journalist, tweeting, “BBC Hindi has done just that for which I had coined the word ‘presstitute’. I have a record of what I said. It appears the reporter was asleep or he deliberately cut and paste to frame a false statement. Well done, …. (journalist’s name) — how much money did you get??” The journalist can ask him the same question perhaps but BBC News Hindi responded professionally by releasing the uncut video of the entire conversation that speaks for itself.

The Election Commission has finally taken a position and issued a notice to Adityanath on his remarks. The former Army chief should now clarify whether after denying his earlier comments, he now believes that the Indian Army is Modi’s Army?

All for the sake of a post, right General?