Uniformity In Dress Of Senior Officers Will Break Tradition, Pride & Elan Of Regiments

"How can so exclusive and age old tradition be changed under the guise of 'indianisation' of the Indian Army? If there is one entity in India that is more Indian and even more ‘desi’ than anything else, it is the Indian Army, along with the Navy and Air Force." - Opines Gp Capt AG Bewoor

Uniformity In Dress Of Senior Officers Will Break Tradition, Pride & Elan Of Regiments

Who Wanted this Change?

It would be interesting to know from which source this idea germinated. It is rumoured that FM Cariappa wanted it to be done when he was C-in-C India so many years back. But I doubt he had such extreme ideas. Has the British Army done this change over in the UK? They have many different regiments with varying ranks badges, collar tabs, belt buckles, lanyards, headgear, just as we have. I however wonder whether what has appeared in the media is desirable.

What Exactly is the Mushkil?

Why cannot all officers who belong to Rifle Regiments keep their black rank badges as they do today? The man/woman spends all their fighting career, living with and in extreme close proximity with those troops. The JCOs of Rifle Regiments will naturally continue to wear black rank badges. The JCOs of all other Regts will continue to wear brass stars. Thus thousands of JCOs across the Indian Army will continue with their black / brass stars & ashok lions will they not? This change is only for  officers who can have at least one star on their cars. What is the ‘mushkil’ that the netas feel?

Suddenly It Is an Eyesore?

The Lanyards that every officer and  jawan wears are so special to each paltan, their distinct colours, twists in the cords, mixture of different threads, thickness vary; and that exclusiveness has a long tradition connected with battles and campaigns of that regiment. Just because many of them were raised under the British Indian army is a distortion of sameness? These officers whose lanyards are to be changed  belong to the Jat, Marathas, Madras, Assam, Bengal Engineers, J&K Rifles, EME, Signals, Mahar, Cavalry Regt. There is a history and tradition in those lanyards, many could well be connected to the faith of the troops. The Marathas used wear their lanyard around their neck, some regts wear them on the left shoulder, others on right. Why should this small regimental touch be discarded or forcibly removed? It does not disturb the smartness of the uniform does it? Just like the brass or black stars / ashok lion, cross-batons in no way disrupt or cause disharmony to a line of brigadiers standing in a row. Every brigadiers collar tabs will have one star, their socks and  shoes will be black, their swords will be inside same scabbards, and if everyone's head gear is the very same peak cap, they will look exactly as they should, a group of brigadiers of the Indian Army. Only on close inspection will the difference in lanyard, black / brass ranks badges, different belt buckle will be obvious. Is that an eyesore? It has not been an eyesore for more than 75 years, suddenly it is bad? How can so exclusive and age old tradition be changed under the guise of 'indianisation' of the Indian Army? If there is one entity in India that is more Indian and even more ‘desi’ than anything else, it is the Indian Army, along with the Navy and Air Force. The plan has to be abandoned in its present format.

Greater Confusion

But who is disturbed by the black / brass stars, the blue, red, orange, black lanyards; the different belt buckles? Is it the RM, RRM, Lok Sabha Speaker, PM, Rashtrapati, CJI, FM?  Who find it incongruous? Have they elaborated why they feel so? Have they found it difficult to interact with brigadiers / generals who have different metal rank badges, different colour lanyards and different belt buckles? In truth the unfamiliar netas & babus will be able to address their doubts to the correct officer on the pertinent subject by looking at the insignia on the belt buckle. These officials who want such changes will in fact be able to state their questions to the correct Maj Gen by looking at his belt buckle badge. Ask about small arms to one with say Gurkha Khukris on the belt. Ask about engineering to the engineer general, his buckle will indicate that specialisation. Ask the artillery brigadier about guns and ask the Cavalry general about tanks. On the other hand if all generals wear the very same belt buckle who will you ask what? Political leaders, do you know what you are doing?  What a twisted convoluted decision you have taken and it will cause even greater muddiness in your minds. It then begs this silly question, are you wanting to create clones out of senior officers? Is the RM aware of what is being done?

The Head Dress is Not an Impediment to Victory

That the peak cap must always be the head gear for all ceremonial occasions seems to make a lot of sense when stated by itself. But go a little deeper into each different head gear. Tradition has it that parachute regiment never uses peak caps. I suppose it is too cumbersome to carry with you on your way down, so they keep their maroon berets. Many cavalry officers also do not use peak caps but use only their black berets. It is decidedly easy getting in and  out of a tank with a beret than a peak cap. It makes sense that these brigs and above wear standard peak caps for general formal occasions. When they go to Agra/ Ahmednagar they can don their favourite headgear. This is what the new rule is trying to say. Another thought. Yes indeed the tilted Gurkha hat worn by Gen Rawat and others did not find favour with many, but was it such an eyesore that so severe an action is demanded? How do maroon berets, black berets, peak caps, tilted Gurkha hats and a few side caps, all in the same row at the Republic Day parade look so disharmonious? Do all Brigadiers and above have to look exactly the same? For what? Once again, which administrative and political authority has found this traditional difference a problem? It has in no way interfered with the Indian Army winning battles, wars, aiding in natural disasters, holding flag marches, tackling insurgency, destroying terrorist camps, defending Siachen, fighting LTTE in Sri Lanka, and marching down Kartavya Marg year after every year. The Indian Army is not a political party where everyone must wear the same type of kurta and same coloured sash and the same topi in exactly the very same manner as everyone else.  Senior officers of the Indian Army is an amalgamation of differences that make it so unique, and yet, a composite fighting machine that thrives with those differences. They are not off-shoots of a Single Mono-cellular Amoeba that they must look exactly alike just as do Identical Twins. Our Netas need to understand and absorb that they must stop fiddling with what they do not understand, this will not win you votes.  In truth and in all probability, it will only get you anger from both the men and their families. You are troubling the tiger, the tigresses and the cubs.

What is My Connection with this Uniform?

Why do I write so passionately about the army uniform? Because I grew up with olive green and saw things change with time. The Dogra Regt used to wear brown shoes, because some GORA Saab years ago decreed it as such. But they changed over to black. I am sceptical of changing uniforms of senior officers just to bring uniformity to such a foolishly extreme limit. Sadly this may severe that umbilical cord of the officer with his regiment. But pray who is the Neta to cut that cord and cast it away. It is not yours, it is hers or his. Why on Earth must all stars, ashok lions and cross batons be only brass? Do the black ones create confusion and disharmony, do they look dirty? Why should the belt buckle be only one kind for Brigs and above? Does the RM, RRM, Def Secy, IG Police, Collector, President, Governer, CM or anyone else in India and abroad get confused and find it difficult to interact with two Maj Gens, one who has brass rank stars and the other who has black rank stars? Rubbish. If the belt buckle of one Lt Gen has the emblem of Engineers, as does of the present COAS, and the other Lt Gen's belt buckle has two khukris with XI in the centre, does it create any confusion? And if yes, for whom?  It has not happened till now, 75 years after independence, unlikely to happen in future. What is the fuss all about? The whole angst stems from the head gear, that everyone does not wear the very same peak cap. Then pass that order and be done with it. Why do govt / MOD fiddle with the unimportant and such subjects that have no impact on the cost of maintaining the army? All officers spend their own money on uniforms including rank stars, head gear, shoes, socks, trousers and shirts with lanyards, ribbons. This is not decolonisation nor is it Indianisation. It is distorting the connection of a lifetime between an army officer and his paltan. You are doing it at your peril.

They Must Remain Different

Look at it another way. When a JCO or Captain meets a Maj Gen in the common uniform there will be no way of knowing which regt / paltan / corps / service he belongs to. Today the JCO / Capt will instantly know the antecedent of a Brig by recognising his lanyard and belt buckle. And finally, all Brigs and above are not the same, they are not supposed to be the same, they are specialists in their domains, their uniforms are designed to let others know that specialisation by just one look at his lanyard and  belt. This is a wasteful exercise which shows that the Appreciation was not done correctly, and if it was done, then the Best Course of Action was determined first and the Aim was written later. All in vain in the opinion of this Air Force guy who is an army brat.

On the other hand, if the army itself, it’s Commanders / PSOs / Colonels of Regts want it, fine. Jolly good show, theek hai saabji, Jai Hind.

About The Author

Gp Capt AG Bewoor was commissioned in the Indian Air Force in 1965 into the Transport Stream. He took premature retirement in 1993 while serving as the COO of 3 Wing at AFS Palam.

(Views expressed are the author's own and do not reflect the editorial stance of Mission Victory India)

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