In what is becoming a worrying trend,soldiers and officers of an Army unit that was on a training mission to Meerut clashed after a dispute over a boxing match,leaving at least three injured,including the second-in-command of the unit.
The incident occurred at the 10 Sikh Light Infantry unit Thursday evening while an inter-company boxing tournament was under way and reportedly involved several personnel of the battalion. Heightened emotions led to violence and two majors and a soldier were hospitalised for their injuries.
While the sequence of events is still not clear,one version said the clash occurred during a bout in which one of the soldiers wanted to walk out after a few rounds as he had taken damage but was being forced by an officer to continue the fight.
This led to a stand-off between soldiers and the officer and turned ugly. It is believed the second-in-command of the unit,a senior major,also suffered injuries when he tried to intervene.
The Sikh LI unit is currently based in Palam but was in the Meerut general area as part of its annual collective training exercise. A formal court of inquiry has been ordered with the Army saying that it will adopt a zero tolerance policy on the issue.
The clash is the fourth such violent incident between officers and soldiers in two years. However,what has worried the military ranks more is that in the past three events,the troops involved belonged to armoured and artillery units and the infantry had been spared.
Infantry units,which form the bedrock of the Army,are not known to have witnessed such a clash,primarily as the officers and soldiers share a closer relationship,given the nature of combat they are trained to engage in.
While the clash is a matter of concern,it is learnt that its intensity was nowhere close to the three other clashes. Unlike in the past,the clash did not spread and there have been no reports of arms being used. Also,the soldiers did not go on a rampage after the incident and there have not been any reports of sloganeering or mass protest.
As reported by The Indian Express,the first such clash occurred in June 2011 at the 45 Cavalry unit based in Punjab after which three officers and 16 soldiers were tried by a military court. While arms were not used,the situation reportedly deteriorated into a near mutinous mood that was defused only after the commanding officer of the unit rushed to the spot.
The second clash,the biggest so far,occurred at the 226 Artillery Unit in Nyoma in May 2012 following allegations that the wife of an officer had been molested.
The third took place in Samba in August 2012 and involved the 16 Cavalry armoured unit but things were brought under control before serious violence could break out.