Change Is A Necessity Of Times!

"There is a massive resistance amongst the serving and retired fraternity to switch over the names of Infantry regiments to numerical identity."

Change Is A Necessity Of Times!

“We tend to confuse traditions and customs. The former are sacrosanct, and pertain to aspects like courage, valour, camaraderie, right conduct etc. Customs, on the other hand, are transitory. They pertain to things like the uniform we wear, the accoutrements, the music which we March too, the way we dine, the way we celebrate functions et al“ Major General Dhruv Katoch —- writing on proposed Changes within armed forces.

One can not disagree with Major General Dhruv Katoch . He has put things in a proper perspective. Change for the sake of Change is undesirable. But Change is inevitable. It can not be blocked or resisted . More often it is painful to change time-tested but still useful things, but all good things  have their expiry time. Most often , it is the call of the times to review existing state of things, such as one changing one’s wardrobe periodically. To hang on with the old things till they break / or lose their utility is harmful.

A raging debate goes on these days on the proposed changes suggested in the armed forces. These pertain to change of names of Infantry Regiments , Roads and bridges etc, which have a colonial past. As a matter of principle , it is improper to discard something on such a logic but it must be done based on the future needs and utility.

There is a massive resistance amongst the serving and retired fraternity to switch over the names of Infantry  regiments to numerical identity. It is argued that such a change would affect the regimental spirit and harm the fighting potential of the unit .  It is further stated that customs and traditions of the units are evolved with blood, sweat and toil over a period of  time and they become motivational factors for future generations of soldiers . There is a lot of merit in these arguments.

Frankly speaking,  Regimental spirit is a misnomer . It had got nothing to do with the regiment but based upon Caste/ Religion / regional affinities. It is from this flowed the concept of Martial races/which was based on historical facts of familial/ Community closeness . This is why you had caste/ Region based regiments . Soldiers were motivated on their beliefs of Maratha Superiority or Jat toughness, Dogra Pride, Sikh Confidence , Rajput valour or even Punjabi aggression .

History would tell you that bulk of Indian Infantry regts / soldiers are from North India ?   Why are there no Karnataka/ Kerala/ Telegu / Andhra/Gujarat Regts  ? There was no UP regt because of mutiny of 1857. Only after independence Rajput/ Grenadiers / Guards included Soldiers from UP . Bihar regt came up as a need for second world war in 1941—- it covered Bihar / Odisha/ Jharkhand / Bengal etc . As for as South was concerned, MADRAS regt alone covered all of them . ASSAM regt covered entire NE till Naga regt came up in 70s. Thus, you see over 90% of British Indian army Infantry was  from North India , even present day Pakistan such as Baloch Regt , Frontier force etc.

The point is that North India had a history of dealing with foreign invasions and Britain considered them as fighting clans later terming them martial races Punjab, Sikh, Dogra, Raj Rif , Jat , Maratha , Gorkha , Baloch , Pathans . It is with the help of these races Britain had conquered entire India . Clive had only 3000 British soldiers.

Britain thought that North India , above Vindhyachal range, had been toughened due to  regular invasions and conflicts over a period of  time. Therefore they relied more on their fighting capabilities and family loyalties. Haven’t you heard such commitments : “Raghukul Reet Sada Chali Aayi, Pran jaye par Vachan Na jaaye”. Such thoughts became “ battle cries” of the regts to pump the  soldiers with the “ Josh” and aggressive spirit.

Britain exploited such social and family bonding to come up with regimental names. And this generated Regimental Spirit .If one reads the history of pre-1947, princely state force, one  will find no such regimental names . Even if you read Mahabharata war, you will find different armies were known by their leader : Senapati / or the king . There were no caste/ religious / regional identities in such armies.

How about modern regts of Armoured Corps or Artillery?  Most of them are identified by numerical identity and not by region/ religion  and caste even some are known by their founding fathers Hudson’s Horse (4 Horse) . Composition might be of same caste / region / religion but identity is different i.e. 17 Horse ( Poona Horse ) etc.  Same caste / region/ religion composition is for the purpose of easy Cohesion and administration. But identity is numerical number . In the same vein, what about Mechanised Infantry or even Guards and Grenadier Regiments . They do not have caste / religious identities. Does it mean they do not have regimental spirit? They have acquitted themselves well in all the wars fought by post -1947 India .

Same  goes for artillery regts their identity is by numerical numbers 4 Field or 72 Medium etc . Composition might be of same community / caste etc for easy cohesion and logistics , such as food habits or lingual affinities .

Therefore, why was there a fuss about numerical identity being given to Infantry Regts? Composition may remain same or slightly modified slowly over a period of time to suit the modern philosophy of war . Emerging concept of war makes it clear that Brute Force application has no role in modern military conflicts. What is needed is the Brain Force cohesion under a chosen leader. In fact , in the wake of 1984 rebellion by some Sikh Units , the need was felt to have mixed Infantry units but it was not persisted with . It is time to shed this philosophy of “ Rabbits cannot be born out of hen’s eggs” , which actually supports martial race concept of  same caste/ region / religion regiments . If armoured corps, Mechanised Infantry  and artillery can do without it , why not Infantry ? Even supporting arms have no such nomenclatures. Future wars are not going to be “ Charge of the Light Brigade”. They will be technology driven smart wars, fought by smart soldiers.

In view of above discussion , I support numerical identity of Infantry Regts . Time to do away with the theme, “ why fix a thing , if it was not broken”.   With apology to Keat, it is stressed that Old order must change,  yielding place to new, so as to discard, which had outlived its utility . It is not because of colonial past but standardisation and necessity of time to give new identity .

You see, when you say 4 Hudson Horse or 17 Poona Horse or 1st Skinners Horse we must understand there were NO horses in them anymore. Isn’t it better to switch on to new identity say , 4 Armoured Regt or 17 Armoured Regt . Similarly many other such redundant nomenclatures are there 14 Engr Regt may bracket it as ( Bombay Sappers) or 4 Armoured Regt ( Hudson Horse) or even 4 Raj Rif (outram) etc . We need standardisation.

A point about Regiment spirit .one would like to bet,  if a survey of army officers children of 70s/80s was carried out , one would find 75-80 percent have not joined armed forces. And those who had joined  , they do not join Infantry . Check out this . All this talk about Regimental spirit , now -a-days is bookish and far removed from reality .

Further , there is no harm in changing the names of roads and bridges within cantonments . They can be named after military heroes . New names must motivate young soldiers , who have no links with the colonial past.  No need to preserve history which has a blemished past . Same goes for some old customs and traditions .  I say even ceremonial dresses be done away with. What is the usage and where is the time wearing them, While bulk of the army was deployed in insurgency environs? May be Regimental Centres could be allowed to keep such accoutrements for ceremonial purposes. There should be only one dress for peace and field locations . A lot of funds can be saved.

Also , the letter under circulation, suggesting these changes has been interpreted to the extreme . Some people are suggesting rank structure of officers as under :-
1: Gen - Senapati
2. Lt Gen - Upsenapati
3. Maj Gen - Atirikt Up Senapati
4 Brig - Tridal pati
5. Colonel  - Dalpati
6. Lt Col- Up Dalpati
and so on
It is ridiculous .

Rank structure is universally/ internationally recognised and there is nothing colonial about it . This is a wild figment of imagination to change it . Even if it was humour it is displeasing.

I am of the view that rank structure of the three wings be standardised for better recognition , at least up to the rank of Brig’s thereafter service special ranks can be introduced—- Maj Gen / Air Vice Marshal / Rear Admiral and so on !

Traditions / customs etc are derivations of the conditions of a particular time period . Indian society has come a long way since 1947. Therefore, so have various things of the past we ought to put them in a new shape rather than making them disfigured . Dinner nights and Mess dresses are not suited to the fast - paced world  of today.  There are many other things which need a review, if not an immediate discard. Discuss and debate but modify and alter what has outlived its utility.

Kissing was once a taboo on celluloid screen but it is openly done in the public today with no one taking notice , notwithstanding the moral police of various religions, making noise about it . But they represent last ditch resistance of a tall building before Tsunami flattens it. Some times Change has to be enforced from top to overcome emotional barriers of connectivity with the past . So be it .

In conclusion, one would say, there was no need to be emotional about some changes being incorporated . Think about those drill procedures/ words of command having been changed in the past. “ Attention” was changed to “ Saavdhaan” and “ Stand at Ease” was replaced with “ Vishraam”. They are working well and properly adopted by the Indian army . “ Yoga” has become more attractive physical exercise to keep soldiers fit . Therefore, there is no point resisting changes  which are being introduced due to call of the times . It is better summed up by John D Rockefeller: “Don't be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.”

(Col. Rajinder Kushwaha is an ex-NDA, commissioned into 3 Bihar. He is a battle-hardened veteran who served in  ’71 War & has operated extensively in various insurgency environs across the country. He is a renowned author, and a highly respected defence & national security expert writing for several reputed publications such as  ‘Defence and Security Alert’ (DSA), the ‘Indian Defence Review’ (IDR) among others. You can reach him on Twitter: @RajeeKushwaha, Email ID: [email protected])

(Views expressed are the authors own, and do not reflect the editorial policy of 'Mission Victory India')

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