The confrontation between officers and jawans of a Jammu and Kashmir Rifles (JAK RIF) battalion deployed in Arunachal Pradesh last Friday is the latest in a series of incidents where the disciplinary boundaries between officers and jawans have been breached. The news got leaked through social networking sites, even though the Army has termed it as a ‘scuffle’.
The news about the incident in the unit started spreading through social media with detailed messages being circulated giving out unconfirmed details of the clash and the cause behind it. These messages said that an officer had been left injured in the incident. The Army was quick to react to these developments taking place on various Whatsapp groups and denied that there had been any ‘mutiny’ in any unit. It explained that a jawan had died of natural causes which led to an ’emotional’ response from some jawans. The jawan had apparently died of a heart attack after a route march even though he had been medically examined before the march and found to have been fit.
Meanwhile, a counter campaign on Whatsapp seemed to have been launched in which conflicting versions of the incident were put forward. Some of the messages conveyed that the ‘fabric of the unit’ was intact and asked recipients to ignore alarming messages which were circulating. Another message, which also got fast into circulation, made a plea that all messages regarding the incident should be avoided and even went on to say that this was a disinformation campaign which was being taken advantage of by ‘ISI moles’ and that social media was no place to discuss it.
However, in the absence of a categorical statement being put out regarding the nature of the incident, speculation about the clash or scuffle continued. Senior retired Army officers have taken a dim view of the breakdown of discipline. Speaking to The Indian Express, Maj Gen Krishan Khorana (retd), a former Sikh Regiment officer, said, “Earlier jawans were very simple people and tolerated all as long as you were 100 per cent fair with them and you kept each other on the straight and the narrow. Today with education gone up and life becoming competitive all over they are not taking nonsense from anyone”. He added that the officers shortage in infantry units was way “too much”. Shortage of officers at the level of Capt and Majors is taking a toll on the units and officers are doing multiple tasks and they also get tired and cannot manage everything.
Brig Harwant Singh (retd) said, “I will term it as a failure of command at an individual level by who so ever was in-charge”. He went on to add that maybe there was some communication gap in the unit because of which the jawans may have got emotional.
Past known incidents of indiscipline
Oct 2010: Scuffle between officers and troops in an Armoured Regiment in Tibri, near Gurdaspur
May 2012: Officers of an Artillery regiment in Ladakh attacked by jawans
Oct 2012: Jawans of an Armoured Regiment In Patiala leave regiment in protest against task given by an officer
August 2012: Jawans clash with officers in Samba after suicide of a jawan
Oct 2013: Clash in a Sikh Light Infantry battalion in Meerut leaves officers and jawans injured
Oct 2013: NCC Unit CO assaulted by Sikh Light Infantry Jawan in Batala after altercation