Beating of the Retreat: my dismay and disappointment
- Category: Bharat Rakshak Blog
- Published: Tuesday, 02 February 2016 18:09
- Written by Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi (Retd)
- Hits: 18502
This letter is said to have been written by retired Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi. While we did not receive this from the source, the points mentioned in this letter are very pertinent.
It would be churlish of me to remind you of why the ‘Beating of Retreat’ Ceremony is performed and what the traditions and sequencing are that must be observed; I am quite sure that your staff dealing with the subject would have done so, or would do so when this epistle of mine appears in the public domain. Suffice to highlight only three of the ‘wrongs’ (or shall I call them blunders) that manifested themselves in this year’s ceremony.
Firstly, our bandsmen, besides playing martial music, are also adept at playing symphonies (both western and Indian), but there is a place and occasion to play them. By all accounts, a ‘Beating of Retreat’ ceremony is not one of them! I do hope we do not add more colour to it in future on account of directions from the higher ups and ask them to wear dhotis and kurtas to add authenticity to the proceedings!
Secondly, while some of our bandsmen, particularly drummers do get into the spirit of the moment and start swaying, if not gyrating, as they play, but is it forced on those poor boys or they do so automatically, as the spirit moves them? It was really distressing to see some of the drummers, specially from the Naval Band, breaking out into some sort of a bhangra or akin to it , either in their enthusiasm or to impress their Chief! Maybe, the proximity to Bollywood may have inspired them!
At this rate, we may in future years witness dances to showcase our wide variety of dance forms, or God forbid gyrations by the Bollywood ‘nautanki’ crowd and rappers to liven up the staid proceedings!
Thirdly, I was quite shocked to see police bands amidst the military bands during the ceremony. I have no idea why you forgot or you agreed to these police bands taking part in this highly exclusive military spectacle. I have nothing against the police, but the way they are being permitted to participate in military ceremonies spells another doom for the Indian Military. I am all for egalitarianism, but the line must get drawn at the appropriate place. I or my comrades cannot draw such a line; it is only you who can do so. I do hope that you will do that, unless you have reached so far in the “Yes Sir, Three Bags Full Sir” syndrome that you feel you have no choice but to conform!
Let us move on then, for having stuck my neck out already, I might as well go the whole hog. Since we have been talking about ceremonials and pageantry associated with the month of January, let me draw your attention to the Republic Day Parade, which is so meticulously organized by Headquarters Delhi Area, but somewhere the plot is lost when the netas and the bureaucrats gather all the praise and the sweat, energy and time spent on such a major military event is usurped by them. Hallelujah, why has the military become so subservient?
For the first time since I took part in the parade, as a cadet from the National Defence Academy (NDA) in 1959 I think, I was shocked to see no participation by the veterans, who have sacrificed their lives and limbs for the nation. Are they of no consequence? Are they spent forces (khali Kartoos), as far as the nation is concerned. Let me rub it in, because you as Chiefs of both serving personnel and veterans agreed to have a shoddy cardboard tableau marked OROP, trying to show the false magnanimity of this self-serving government, which having gone back on its word to sanction OROP in its totality and parliamentary approved definition, has reneged at the behest of those darling blue-eyed boys, also known as the bureaucrats.
Do you think the people of India will go along with such a fraud! You may be fully committed to your bosses, but why have you become such ‘Ji Hazoors’ that you have now forgotten even your comrades in arms, who incidentally were at least partly responsible for assisting you to reach the present high appointments you hold!
Three more small points, as I have already vented most of my ire. I fail to understand why it is our valiant jawans who are press-ganged into laying mats on the Rajpath so that the government (read the Prime Minister) can showcase mass yoga to the world. What do the huge armies of civil servants do?
While it is good to showcase women power in the military, it is wrong for lady officers to be made to carry rifles in the squads while participating in the Republic Day Parades. Since we do not have women enrolled as the rank and file so far, let lady officers lead squads of their regimental/corps contingents, as male officers do.
My last point relates to a group photograph taken at the ‘At Home’ of the Army Chief that has gone viral on the e-mail circuit and on the social media that shows the three Chiefs subordinated to the back seat, during their own ‘At Home’, while the netas, both present and past are reposed on comfortable chairs in the front row. Have the armed forces been reduced to such a state on their own function? See, how the mighty have fallen! Hallelujah and Jai Ho simultaneously!!!
Let me end this epistle on an optimistic note by conveying my best wishes to you Sirs. I do hope you will reflect on what an old soldier feels and perhaps carry out at least some of the suggested changes so that our sacred military traditions are preserved and not sacrificed at the altar of expediency. Hopefully, your legacy would not be repeated in future by your successors.