For the student of military lore there’s nothing more exhilarating than attending a regimental reunion. The traditions, camaraderie, history and specific regimental culture on display are pretty much exciting.
The Bihar Regiment was raised as part of the plan to extend the army’s recruiting base in order to meet wartime requirements of manpower in 1941. The regiment recruited men from Bihar as well as the Adivasi tribals from Jharkhand and adjoining states.
Recent additions to the regiment are other tribals from Orissa and Gujarat Along with other regiments raised during World War 2 it remained among the underdogs of the infantry till it rose through sheer hard work and merit.
A major role in reaching the top was provided by the stirring leadership provided by the regiment’s inspiring commanders like Generals Sant Singh, the lion-hearted ‘Jogi’ Gharaya, the only winner of both the Maha Vir Chakra and the Kirti Chakra and Kulwant Mann.
The posthumous Ashoka Chakras won by Colonels Shanti Swaroop Rana, Harsh Uday Singh Gaur and Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan serve to motivate all ranks of the Biharis.
The Regiment’s 1st Battalion captured Jubbar Ridge and Point 4268 on 6th/7th July 1999 after a tough fight earning the battle honour Battalik and the theatre honour Kargil.
The regimental association’s Chandigarh Chapter held its 7th annual get-together last Sunday at Chandimandir where I met General AK Bakshi, XI Corps commander and the current Colonel of the Regiment, General DP Singh and Colonel PC Sawhney both of whom earned Vir Chakras in 10 Bihar’s successful assault on the important Pakistani communications centre of Akhaura during the Bangladesh campaign and a host of others.
The army’s excellent regimental system survives on the devotion and fierce loyalty of its adherents like these and other Bihari warriors.
Voting rights for soldiers Politicians have always been supporting legitimate demands of ex-servicemen and voicing their grievances for a simple reason: they form a small but significant section of the electorate and exercise their franchise discerningly.
In the past very few of serving soldiers’ causes were taken up since they were not registered to vote at their places of posting and the postal ballot system was inefficient in the extreme.
However, the tenure of the last Lok Sabha (2009-2014) saw a number of questions being asked by MPs relating to such subjects as the status of the married accommodation project, quality of rations, service conditions, pensionary benefits, etc - all pertaining to serving soldiers.
This new found interest in the welfare of serving officers and Jawans can be ascribed to the decision of the powers that be to allow them to register as voters and exercise their franchise at their stations of posting. This is a welcome development and augurs well for political interest in the well-being of our defenders wherever they may be located.
However, the Election Commission’s recent decision to allow registration on the condition of having been posted for three years at the place where it is sought is a retrograde step. It defies all logic pertaining to armed forces postings where such long tenures are virtually unheard of.
While soldiers’ wellwishers have approached the courts it is high time the government itself recognised the importance of according full political rights to them and stepping in to ensure that these are well protected.