A boxing bout turned into a bare-knuckles street fight between officers and men of an infantry unit near Meerut on Thursday, ending with two majors and a jawan on hospital beds.
The brawl was triggered by an altercation between officers and jawans of 10 Sikh Light Infantry (LI) during an inter-company boxing competition.
Details of what transpired are sketchy, though a senior army officer claimed that the fight broke out following a dispute over a point awarded by the referee.
“Emotions run high during boxing matches. Sometimes these things can happen,” he said. As a rule, officers do not take part in contact sports such as boxing with jawans.
The clash is the fourth instance of gross breach of military discipline in the army during the last three years.
“Acts of indiscipline will not be tolerated. There is zero tolerance to such acts,” said army chief General Bikram Singh, who was commissioned in the Sikh LI. He said action would be taken against “the defaulting personnel” after a probe.
Singh is the ‘Colonel of the Sikh LI regiment’, an honour usually conferred upon the senior-most officer of the regiment. The ‘Colonel of a Regiment’ is kept informed of all regimental activities and offers advice on matters relating to welfare.
Former army chief General VP Malik had commanded 10 Sikh LI when he was a colonel. His son was also commissioned in the same unit.
The officers who sustained injuries have been identified as Majors D Suresh, the officiating second-in-command, and Himanshu Sabherwal.
Army sources said the brawl was triggered after one of the officers “roughed up” a jawan who had lost a match. The officer allegedly hit the jawan, accusing him of not putting in his best efforts.
A group of jawans then began assaulting the officers to even the score. That’s how the fight stared, a source said.
The army officer refused to confirm this version, but did not rule it out either.
Thing, however, appear to be becoming normal again in the unit, with officers and jawans being present for a rugby match on Friday morning.
Based in New Delhi, 10 Sikh LI is currently in Meerut for training.
The Meerut episode has brought into focus the underlying tension between officers and jawans in recent years.
Four soldiers of 226 Field Artillery Regiment, including the unit’s commanding officer and his deputy, were injured in a brawl between officers and jawans in Ladakh’s Nyoma sector in May 2012. An army probe held 168 soldiers guilty of breaching discipline.
A jawan had misbehaved with the wife of a major, triggering the violent face-off.
The army unit, 16 Cavalry, attacked by terrorists in Samba on September 26 had witnessed an officer-jawan spat last August, which led to disciplinary action against 60 soldiers.
In April 2010, there was a clash between officers and jawans of 45 Cavalry near Gurdaspur.