5 December 2020 08:10 PM


Lt General Z.U. SHAH | 30 JULY, 2020

The Army Needs its Combat Uniform to be Exclusive

Paramilitary can have its own

In the US, Federal Forces have been inducted to control the spiralling ' Black Lives Matter' violence. I sympathise with the movement but it should have remained peaceful like the 'Great March on Washington' of late Martin Luther King on August 23, 1963.What concerns me is that it is alleged that some of these Federal Force personnel were not in uniform. Are they donning the mask of anonymity or have right wingers infiltrated their ranks with the aim of wrecking counter violence on the demonstrators?

In India too there are allegations that certain rogue elements, in uniform, were active during the riots in North East Delhi in February 2020. Some Police personnel were sans their name tabs. Again the mask of anonymity? It is essential that the police and Central forces like the Rapid Action Force ( RAF) be non-partisan and deal with rioters, of all shades, with a firm but even hand. The study of FIRs registered do not indicate this. People whose lives have been wrecked and properties destroyed are now facing police action for alleged crimes during the riots.

There have also been allegations that Army troops have been heavy handed during the riots in North East Delhi. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Army was never committed. In any case whenever the Army has been committed they have been fair and firm. They have won praise from all quarters for their commitment and fair play.

Unfortunately in India, Army uniforms, especially the disruptive pattern combat dress, have become so common place that every organisation, right up to gate keepers of security agencies are donning them. These uniforms are easily available in all 'Kabari' shops. Rioters, earlier, had scant respect for the Khaki uniform but the shock effect which was instilled, in a mob, on appearance of 'Olive Green' clad troops was electrifying. This has sadly evaporated.

Police and Para military forces are now donning disruptive pattern uniforms. They cannot be distinguished from Army troops with the result that when Army troops are committed on Internal security duties they sometimes have to carry placards declaring 'ARMY', a most demeaning way of identification.

I am not sure how this has come to pass. I don't think the Armed forces were assertive enough to stop this spread of 'clothing virus'. The Para Military Forces, smug in getting a ‘Fauji’ tag and appearance, pressed on relentlessly.

There were several representations by Army authorities on the ‘encroachment’ by police and Para Military Forces on their turf. These were not accepted on financial grounds. What would happen to the Uniforms already being worn and the factories that produced them? The solution is simple. Let the existing uniforms be worn out (won’t take more than 5-6 Years) but new issues must be distinctly different. The factories that produce them be modified to the new colours.

In any case Border Guarding Para Military forces need disruptive pattern combat dress, but they must be of a different shade than the army. The Police must, however, be immediately debarred. This protective cloak and the misconception, amongst civilians, that they are ‘Army’ must be immediately shed.

A similar situation occurred earlier when our elite Para Commandos had to change their 'nom de guerre' by rechristening themselves as ' Special Forces' because the 'Commando' tag became so common place that even rag tag outfits adopted it. This has now come to pass with disruptive 'Combat Dress'.

The Army cannot be expected to shed lifesaving combat dress as the disruptive pattern was adopted to provide camouflage to soldiers in combat. Who are the police camouflaging themselves from? Are they committed on combat? Certainly not, and an urgent reversal is required. If better sense does not prevail and this proliferation is not put an end to, it will lead to dilution of the stature of the Army.

Lt Gen Zameer Uddin Shah (Retd) is former Dy Chief of Army Staff &

Ex Vice Chancellor Aligarh Muslim University.


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