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New Delhi: A video which has surfaced online showing army men clad in their uniforms clapping and performing aarti while an army band playing Hindu devotional song “Om Jai Jagadish Hare” in the background has prompted many veterans to ask if the event in question violated the Indian Army’s secular traditions, The Telegraph has reported.
While many pointed out the fact that such display of religiosity during passing-out parades has never been part of the Army’s traditions, a spokesperson from the Indian Army, Colonel Sudhir Chamoli, responded that it was not a passing-out parade and added such religious events are common in regiments. He said that the aarti was being performed outside a temple in a regiment and there was nothing wrong with it.
“This is nothing new. The Indian Army conducts parades for all religions — mandir parade, gurdwara parade, masjid parade, etc. If a regiment is predominantly Christian, then Christmas is a regimental function and we have a parade,” The Telegraph quoted Colonel Chamoli as saying.
However, Army veterans are not convinced. They insist that it was not a religious event as pointed out by the Army, but it was a passing-out parade. They point to many visible clues to this effect: the youth of soldiers (given that they are young, it must be a passing-out parade after a training), the weapons they are carrying, a drill square (found specifically during passing-out parades) and the general feel of the place.
However, neither the Army nor anyone has been able to ascertain the regiment or the location from where the video has emerged.
In addition to asserting that it was a passing-out parade, veterans say that such events reflect the institution of the Indian Army, but not a regiment, and hence such display of religiosity indicate how Hindutva has made its way to one of India’s secular institution of Army under the current regime.
While Colonel (retired) Harinder Chhina saw it as nothing but “introducing Hindutva in (the) army”, IPS officer N.C. Asthana took to Twitter to say that the “last bastion of a secular State has fallen with this”.
Although they agree that religious music is played by the Army band during religious occasions, they say that they have never heard anything like that being played during ceremonial parades such as passing-out parades, Republic Day parades, as they are “institutional-level” events, not regimental events.
As the video went viral, Lieutenant General H.S. Panag took to Twitter to say in a rather sarcastic manner, “Great leap forward for ceremonial military parades…”
Another retired Army personnel Brigadier Sandy Thapar tweet said, “This seems a rehearsal of POP (passing-out parade), GCs (gentlemen cadets) running around…. This is at the start of drill square from where the procedure begins. I do not recollect this procedure of Aarti. Neither as GC nor as instructor there.”
According to Army traditions, a gentleman cadet is a trainee at a military academy, and a passing-out parade is held when a batch completes its training.
Another retired army officer was certain that it was a passing-out parade. “The video is of a passing-out parade as we can see the new recruits standing in front and a few seniors standing behind them. They are carrying weapons — why should they carry weapons while doing aarti outside a temple at their unit?”
Lamenting on what he had seen, former army officer Manoj Kumar Channan said, “Desecration of sacred drill square, never in my life I thought of witnessing this… sad.”
Retired official Colonel (retired) Harinder Chhina insisted that it was a passing-out parade and wanted General Bipin Rawat, chief of defence staff, to stop “introducing Hinduvta” into the Army. “This (video) seems to be authentic. If true it is against military traditions. For God’s sake, (Chief of Defence Staff, General Bipin) Rawat is requested to discard this process of introducing Hindutva in Army.”
Meanwhile, indicating that Hindutva has already made its way into the Indian Army, a veteran recalled that Rawat on Thursday, September 16, performed puja for a new defence complex in Delhi that will house over 7,000 personnel.
“Such activities were earlier never seen or publicised by the secular Indian Army,” the veteran said, adding that it was “a very dangerous trend”.