As an Infantry officer having served under the most difficult and arduous conditions in war and peace, I am immensely grieved to see the recent happenings in the training culture and practices being adopted by the Indian Army. Such rapid changes will do more harm than good to the very secular social fabric of the military ethos and military genre.
I write from the standpoint of a soldier, who believed in ‘Naam, Namak aur Nishan, which calls upon a soldier to strive for the good name of the country, respect the salt partaken and ensure the National and Regimental flags always flutter even at the peril of one’s life.
With an ‘All India Class’ character, the Army gives equal opportunities to people of different faiths and my only prayer is that in the light of recent happenings, this very distinct culture is preserved to the hilt and my sense of the change in the army colour from ‘OG to Saffron’ is proved wrong.
Having been part of the Indo Pak war of 1971 and fought in Siachen Glacier with my Battalion, 8 JAK LI (SIACHEN) wherein we captured the world’s highest post ‘Quaid’ and since renamed ‘Bana Top’, my secular belief is under threat after what I saw in the video recording.
Threatened by the very care takers of the OG colour and all that goes within, with the likes of my once Gentlemen Cadets, when I was an instructor at the Indian Military Academy (IMA), to include Gen Bipin Rawat, the CDS, makes me feel somewhat uncomfortable.
I look inside myself and wonder if it is the old school in me that makes me feel thus or is there a larger Agenda at stake? It is with adequate experience of training officers and men; having been posted for a second term at the IMA as the Adjutant of the prestigious Institution, as also having been the Commandant ‘The JAK LI Regimental Centre’, which has mix of Hindus and Muslim communities, makes me ponder over this thought.
‘The Why’ of my concern is based on two recent happenings, with the first being the video recording over the social media, which pontificates a not so secular practice adopted at the ‘Passing out parade’ held at the Artillery Regimental Centre. The second matter relates to the discussion over inclusion of select scriptures of a particular religion in the training manuals issued of the young minds at our alma mater.
The video in circulation shows Artillery recruits from all faiths at the drill parade ground performing ‘Arti’; a Hindu ritual of worship, where lights are offered to a Hindu deity. What is the larger message to the Indian Army for undertaking such a new found practice at a formal parade ground, which is one of the most hallowed places of the Regimental Centre?
All training culminates in holding a pristine parade where recruits align their thinking around the adage ‘Work is Worship’. However the instant video smacks of a change in the very thinking and perhaps being made to re-look at their learning through the lens of ‘Worship is Work’.
Is this a pointer toward a larger agenda being propagated with the military leadership rather silent? As a professional military trainer, I am sure our ilk of the once uniformed fraternity, on seeing the video will feel insulted especially when they see the recruits keeping their rifles between their legs.
This is a most disrespectful way of a holding a weapon and all because the ‘To be soldiers’, need a hands free position merely to clap their hands in unison to the tune of ‘Arti’, played by the military band.
The second observation which pertains to changing texts in training manuals is again a pointer on what we are and where we are going. Although it is good to gravitate toward dynamic and ever changing battlefield optics by introducing new teachings and practices in various military training Institutions and displays, yet I believe such a step needs to be done sensibly without distorting the very fabric of OG, Blue and White.
The change must come within the framework of mutual respect and understanding and not biased toward the majority religious overtones and get subsumed by an ideology promoting learning from Indic literature under a flagship agenda, which in some form is reflective of a coloured bias.
Early September 2021, I read an article titled - ‘Kautilya’s Arthashastra and Bhadavad Gita may soon be part of Indian Military training, which to my way is an effort toward promoting a particular ideology in the garb ‘Indianization’ of the Indian military.
While, as mentioned earlier, changes in the pedagogy and methods at training establishments are good, yet to idealize a particular text and incorporate in training manuals of cadets and soldiers seem a bit outstretched.
What surprised me even more was that the recent study undertaken by The College of Defence Management (CDM), Hyderabad, titled “Attributes of Ancient Indian culture and Warfare techniques” was on explicit instructions from higher Headquarters.
The recommendation of the study though impactful also comes up with the need of having a dedicated faculty, to be headed by the Commandant, as if such competencies on culture and ethics are embedded into the senior officer as also with other faculty members of institutions.
The study recommends a deep dive into stories of ‘Manusmriti; believed to be the first ancient legal text and constitution among the many Dharmasastras of Hinduism, ‘Nitisara’; which shares several common aspects with Arthasastra including a balance between dharma, artha and karma.
It further recommends greater understanding of the Mahabharata, an important source of information on the development of Hinduism between 400 BC and 200 BC. In addition the study recommends unit religious teachers to undertake research on ancient Indian texts and draw lessons, which can be included in the training curricula and in military training manuals.
It is with a firm intent that I write my thoughts for consideration of people responsible to bring about a change in Institutional training and protecting the larger interest of the fighting force. I am also in disarray when I read that senior military officers sending greetings to political leaders on the occasion of their birthdays along with tokens of good will gestures at Army expense.
All such acts of personal aggrandizement must cease immediately and the military must remain apolitical and not get embroiled into an appeasement mode under the garb of being protectors of the ‘Policy of prestige’.
The accountability factor, I dare say is missing and am sure even in the instant case of the video under reference, the axe will fall on the youngest and the best, while their mentors will keep a distant watch of the situation, ensconced in safer abodes.
Let us once again take a pledge toward preservation of our military ethos and traditions, which have held the Indian Army in good stead over years of conflict and deployments in diverse geographies in ‘War and peace’.
About The Author
Brig Rajiv Williams was commissioned from IMA into 10 GUARDS on 14 November 1971 and went straight into war. In 1973 he was posted to 8 JAK LI (SIACHEN), famed for the capture of Pak Quaid post - renamed Bana Top. He commanded Drass Mountain Brigade immediately after participating in the Kargil war.
Post PMR, Rajiv leads the CSR, Sustainability and Business and Human Rights Agenda for Jindal Stainless Group and has spoken at the UN offices in Geneva and New York, besides other forums. A prolific writer, he has co-authored books on ‘Siachen Glacier’, IMA and ‘The JAK LI Regiment’. His paper on CSR finds a pride of place in the book - ‘CSR in India’ formally released in Bonn, Germany.
(Views expressed are the author's own and do not reflect the editorial stance of Mission Victory India. This article was first published in FORCE magazine & has been reproduced with due permission from both the author & the first publisher)