By Lt Col Manoj K Channan
Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) of a different kind is being witnessed as the Service HQs under the advice of the Government of India is undertaking an internal transformation by reviewing old customs and traditions being the following –
Customs and Traditions – Colonial and Pre-colonial Era
Many units of the Indian Army have over the years evolved and have uniformly adapted to customs and norms of Independent India. A few units which were raised during the rule of the British Government and are more than 200 years old to name a few, 16 Light Cavalry, 17 Poona Horse, 4 Horse (Hodson’s Horse), 9 Horse (Deccan Horse), 14 Horse (Scinde Horse), Central India Horse, 2 Lancers (Gardner’s Horse) 3 Cavalry,7 Light Cavalry and 8 Light Cavalry have a rich history which cannot be wished away.
Likewise,there would be units from the Infantry, Artillery, Sappers and so on which have a rich heritage. The valour of these units is etched in the military history of an independent India starting from 1948 operations, uniting of the princely states, 1965 and 1971 operations (the last conventional wars fought) in which many gallantry awards were won by the combatants of these regiments.
The modern-day Pundits of South Block may not understand the concept of Naam, Namak aur Nishaan, perhaps a bit of education may do a lot of good to keep the fabric of the Indian Army intact.
Army Uniforms and Accoutrements
The Indian Army has transformed over the years and All Ranks wear the same uniform. The only difference is in the ceremonial winter mess dress which the Armoured Regiments wear with chain mail and a Toshdan made of silver or Zari.
Regulations / Laws / Rules / Policies
The Indian Defence forces are governed by Army, Air Force and Navy Acts. The Army has the Manual of Indian Military Law and the Defence Services Regulations which have been amended and are in cognizant with the existing law of the lands.
Institutes of Colonial Past and their Re-naming
This is a cosmetic exercise and changing names does not change the history or the ethos of the institutes. Many have been changed and renaming an odd one left out makes no difference.
Renaming of Buildings, Parks, Roads
Most modern defence services habitats, cantonments are named after our Bravehearts who have served our Nation and have sacrificed their lives in doing so. Most AWHO and AFNHB societies are named after the gallantry award winners of our country.
Affiliation of Indian Army units with Foreign Armies
No formal affiliation exists, however, there are bonds of the units of the British era, the children do visit India and likewise the Commanding Officer of the unit is hosted by the British Veterans in a personal capacity. Why is this causing a storm in a tea cup is not really understood.
Pre-Independence Theatre/ Battle Honours
Most units have displayed these colours in their officers’ mess/ quarter guard. The Guidon / Standard presented in Independent India are brought on Parade on ceremonial occasions.
Affiliation with Commonwealth Graves Commission
Many officers and men of the British Indian Army are buried in the cantonments across India, those who had fought during the great wars as well as during their tenure in India. These graves are looked after by a grant by the above named commission towards the upkeep of their last resting place.
Officers’ Mess Procedures and Traditions
The officers messes have a tradition of having dinner nights / guest nights at the culmination of which a toast is raised to the President of India with a glass of water.
Grant of Honorary Commissions
This is a tradition to honour the service of our Junior Commissioned Officers to be given an honorary rank of a Lieutenant or a Captain on active service or on retirement by a procedure of selection by the Records Office of each regiment. It enhances their pay and pension and is something Personnel below Officers Rank aspire for.
System of Colonel of the Regiment
This is a tradition in which an old commanding officer is selected as the Colonel of the Regiment by the serving officers to look after the Regiments interests at the Army HQ. This covers a large spectrum of seeking operational deployment, vacancies on courses, postings of officers and men, release of deficient equipment, last but not the least being a patriarchal figure in grooming All Ranks.
Beating the Retreat and Military Funerals
Beating the retreat is now more of a pageant to bring down the curtains on the republic day celebrations. This has been diluted by incorporating Central Armed Police Forces and the Delhi Police which was otherwise a purely military function. The tunes played over the years have been replaced by Indian tunes written, some of the old ones like the Auld Lang Syne remain a favourite.
The ceremonial funerals and the carriage of the last remains of constitutional political appointment holders, service chiefs in harness have always been given a funeral befitting their rank. To dilute it to a hearse is another step of diluting military traditions. Hearse is used to carry the human remains as on required basis, an example is of our late CDS.
Defence services may perhaps lead the transformation the Government of India seeks; however, it too needs to revisit the functions of the President, Vice President, Governors and other constitutional appointments. The number of advisors from judges, bureaucracy and the military are nothing but a burden on the exchequer.
The reform of having a kosher candidate for elections with a clean slate is a far cry under the prevalent conditions. The reforms in judiciary, bureaucracy and police are not touched, as the political leadership finds it convenient to keep it away at a barge pole length away.
As I write this the Election Commission has asked for election reforms in limiting/capping the voluntary contributions to political parties which is the alternative way to convert unaccounted for cash.
Change is constant, is a given, but churning it in the Defense Services from its recruitment to the points mentioned above is tinkering with trouble when you have a belligerent enemy at the gate.
How it pans out, only time will tell.
The author is an Indian Army Veteran.
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