Senior Armymen and veterans expressed displeasure with the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena's (MNS) demand that movie producers who worked with actors from Pakistan have to pay Rs 5 crore to the Army Welfare Fund.
They were "upset" over the fact that the armed forces were bring dragged into "politics" and said that all "contributions (to welfare fund) are to be voluntary."
"Extortion is not allowed. We would want people to contribute on their own rather than under any coercion," a senior army official was quoted by NDTV as saying.
The controversy happened after Karan Johar's film 'Ae Dil Hai Mushkil' faced backlash and protests by the MNS because it features Pakistani actor Fawad Khan besides Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.
Besides demanding a Rs 5 crore "penance" from producers who work with Pakistani actors, the MNS was also promised that producers would not work with talent from the neighbouring country in the future. This would ensure a 'peaceful release' for movies in Mumbai.
The decision was made during a meeting between MNS Chief Raj Thackeray, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and movie producers led by Mukesh Bhatt.
Many army officers and veterans, along with the general public, have lashed out at the MNS, the Maharashtra government and film producers for dragging the armed forces into politics and accused them of extortion.
"The army is completely apolitical. It is wrong to drag the force into politics," another army official said.
"I served four decades in uniform - and never did I live on extorted money. What's this happening in my country? Why should the Armed Forces be made a part of this extortion? By accepting this money they would become a 'receiver' of tainted money. Indian Armed Forces cannot, and should not become crutches for political ambitions. Unfortunately, this is the trend seen in recent past. Stay away please," Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur said in a series of tweets.
He added that the "Army never doubts the love and sentiment of countrymen behind contributions to its welfare fund."
"The government provides enough to take care of our soldiers. If someone wants to donate, it's purely their individual decision. No one should use it for their political gains...The Army should not be dragged into this episode, it is a secular organisation with no political affinity," former Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor told the New Indian Express.
Sources in the Army said that they have a system which enables them to check all contributions to the fund and that they have the right to reject any contribution made under pressure.