Stephen Neil Gershom
There is almost always a huge gap, not only in access but also in behaviour, between Civilians and Defence personnel in most countries. This gap only widens when it come to the weapons and the equipment possessed by Defence organisations, which is top secret most of the time and civilians are not allowed to even come close to these weapons. In India though, the Defence organisations have a tradition, a tradition of being highly interactive with civilians especially on one particular day of the year, a day named after themselves.
The Air Force Day in India is celebrated on the 8th of October, Navy day on 4th December and Army Day on 15th of January. The Air Force Day is celebrated to mark the establishment of the Indian Air Force on October 8th, 1932, the Navy Day commemorates the success of operation Trident, in which Indian Naval Missile Boats attacked the Karachi Port on the 4th of December in 1971, and the Army Day is Celebrated to mark the appointment of Field Marshal KM Cariappa as the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army on January 15th, 1949.
People walking into the shopping mall, then picking up guns and posing for pictures while a brass band plays patriotic Hindi songs and enthralls the audience. This was the scene at Orion East Shopping Mall, in the evening on January 15th, 2017. Days such as these are when the Defence organisations can get up close and ineractive with the civilians they are protecting, and the opportunity is used to create an atmosphere of excitement – exactly what the equipment display at Orion East did.
Dhruv, an Engineering student visiting the mall said, “We have all heard about the Insas rifles used by the army, and the guns used by the special forces of India, but getting to have a touch feel of the guns used by our army is a different feeling altogether.”
The Parachute Regiment, based out of Bengaluru had been assigned the task of handling the display, which meant that, alongside the 5.56mm Insas Rifles, 5.56mm Insas Light Machine Gun, 5.56mm Tavor Rifle, AK-47, 51mm Mortar and 84mm Rocket Launcher, were displayed, motor parachutes which are used by the Army for recreational purposes. The two types of Motor Parachutes used by the army were displayed, one capable of handling just one person’s weight and the other, capable of handling two people and their combat equipment. Just a few metres away from the display was the stage for the performance held by the ASC Band (Army Service Core), a 24-piece brass band which played all time favourite patriotic songs like Saare Jahaan Se Achcha, Kadam Kadam Badhayega, Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon etc.
The Army Day in these times might be celebrated during peacetime, but delving into the history books would reveal the conditions under which Field Marshal Kodandera Madappa Cariappa took charge as the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, leading to the creation of the Army Day. After facing many hurdles and challenges, growing in experience, serving under the British-ruled Indian Armed Forces, Fighting in World War II and then later facing tough challenges even after independence, including opposition from the interim-government’s Defence Minister Baldev Singh, the then Lieutenant General KM Cariappa finally took over as the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, on January 15th, 1949, becoming General KM Cariappa. He later went on to become Field Marshal KM Cariappa, one of the only two Officers in the Indian Army to have held the post so far, the other one being Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw.
If one had to put the bravery, the camaraderie Field Marshal KM Cariappa shared with his fellow Army men, and the good deeds done by him, this write-up would probably run into pages, and the Indian Army too probably could not find a better way to pay tribute to the man, than to have more than 11 lakh Army personnel celebrate his appointment as Commander-in-Chief, 68 years ago.
On that note, let us wish our armed forces the very best, as they strive to keep our nation secure.