Saturday, May 29, 2010

Misuse of Military Uniforms

Do you agree that unauthorized wearing and misuse of Army Uniform is a big evil and promotes militancy?
The relevant text of some of the press reports from across the country depicting the dastardly acts of militants clad in Army uniform, the likes of which have been shaking up Armed Forces.

  • Militants in Army uniforms mowed down 25 villagers in Champanan. The act was repeated in Thakrai and Sarban villages near Kishtwar. Dressed in olive green Army uniforms, the ultras killed innocent villagers in cold blood. On its part, the administration had given several assurances that the recurrence of such incidents would be checked.

  • Once again, the militants used combat uniforms to gain entry into the residential area of the Army family quarters when they struck, killing 30 people and injuring another 50. When they boarded the Himachal Roadways bus near Vijaypur town early in the morning, all passengers took them to be bonafide Army personnel carrying weapons. As such, there was no reason for the passengers to panic. Later, when the militants asked the driver to stop near the Kalu Chak Army camp, he obliged thinking they had reached their unit area and wanted to get down. It was seconds later when they opened fire that the other passengers realized the gravity of the situation, but by then it was too late. The incident has highlighted the government’s failure to check the open and uncontrolled sale of cloth used for making Army uniforms in the markets throughout the region. Though district magistrates (DMs) of various districts have, from time to time, sought to check the sale of this cloth, their orders have remained mere words which were never enforced. The then Chief Minister, Mr Farooq Abdullah readily admitted the government’s failure to check the open sale of cloth used for making Army uniforms though it has been misused by the militants time and again. However, he said that henceforth, the government would pass such orders as would be strictly enforced and seek to punish the errant shopkeepers. The then Governor Girish Chander Saxena said going by the number of incidents in which militants wearing Army uniforms had carried out different types of attacks, it was imperative to ban the open sale of uniform cloth. Asked how such ban orders would be implemented when the government had failed to do so in the past, senior civil and police officials said if the government showed the will, they had the wherewithal to enforce the orders.

  • Stepping up violence, heavily-armed militants in military uniform stormed an Army camp killing seven jawans and injuring six others at Akhnoor.

  • One Brigadier and seven jawans were killed, and 12 injured when three militants in Army uniforms attacked an Army camp in Tanda, about 40km north of Jammu on the road to Poonch. The militants alighted from a vehicle and began firing at the security guards at the 610 EME Battalion Camp. They managed to enter deep inside the camp hurling grenades and opening indiscriminate fire, disguising themselves as Army personnel. The attack came less than 12 hours after an attack by Army uniform clad militants in Banganga near Katra in which six devotees were killed. The site is on the way to the Vaishno Devi shrine.

  • Just when reports in the media suggested that things were looking up in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K,) came a major suicide attack by Army uniform clad militants on an Army camp at Sanjwan near the state’s winter capital, Jammu. The attack came on the final day of the then President A P J Abdul Kalam’s visit to the region. Militants, dressed in Army uniforms, cut their way through fencing to enter the Army camp and then made their way to a barrack and shot dead about 12 sleeping Army personnel. The two militants were killed in the encounter that followed. A little-known group, the al-Nasireen, has claimed responsibility for the attack. Indian intelligence agencies, however, believe that the attack was masterminded by the Lashkar-e-Toiba and was made easy by the local shopkeepers selling various items of Army uniform.

    In our country, most of the Security Guards at Malls, Hotels and Restaurants, Corporate Houses, Factories and other public places attire themselves in uniform which comprises of a number of items of Army uniform, and wear it in such a shoddy manner that it brings an awful disrepute to the uniformed soldiers and truly disgraceful.

    Photographs, appearing in the newspapers, of the camps and hideouts of various militant groups disclose the rampant misuse of Army uniform by their cadres.

    School and college going children adorn themselves in combat trousers or combat vests, not realizing an iota of the sanctity attached to the fabric.

    Commercial film makers do the maximum damage. A comedian will attire himself in an Army uniform and conduct himself in such a disgraceful manner which certainly makes his character quite comic, but at a huge cost.

    The nation pays tribute to a soldier who gives the supreme sacrifice of his life for safeguarding its territorial integrity, by draping his mortal remains in the National Tricolour before being laid to rest. Then why is his uniform subjected to extreme indignity and humiliation – the uniform which is a matter of pride for him from the day he joins the Army, the uniform to which he gives the utmost regards all throughout his life and the uniform in which he fights, breathes his last and sleeps forever, for the tomorrow of the nation.

    We all as a nation need to take on the onerous responsibility of putting in concerted efforts to revive the respect and glory of the Army uniform. All the four estates of our democracy – the media, the legislature, the executive and the judiciary, along with the ever important support of the citizens, need to combine to take this noble step, which will have far reaching consequences towards creation of a better nation, a nation – we all will be proud of.

    Misuse of uniform attire is an area of major concern. Not only is it degrading the image of the Army and the Armed Forces in general, it is also a huge security risk, as anyone can manage to buy a uniform from the market. There are some steps that the government and police should institute to curb this menace. Sale of uniforms and other military material should be permitted only from authorized shops in the military cantonments. A rule should be legislated that forbids any civilian from wearing military uniforms and abusing them by putting the camouflage pattern cloth innate subjects such as suitcase covers. Anyone acting in contravention should be strictly dealt with by the law.

    Sec 171. It reads...
    171. Wearing garb or carrying token used by public servant with fraudulent intent. Whoever, not belonging to a certain class of public servants, wears any garb or carries any token resembling any garb or token used by that class of public servants, with the intention that it may be believed, or with the knowledge that it is likely to be believed, that he belongs to that class of public servants, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description, for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine which may extend to two hundred rupees, or with both

    For this section to hold, the Army (or any other agency) needs to prove that the Police have a fraudulent intention. The police can easily put up a counter claim that they are wearing Army style camoflouge pattern because it is required for their operational duties as well. Also the police officers are not asking for the regular "Army Uniform" type dress, which may give an impression that the officer is from the Army. Where as a camouflage pattern would just indicate that the wearer is from some armed unit (be it police, army etc.) They are asking for a type of dress which suits their operational needs. This section how ever is relevant to private security agencies (or criminal imposters), who are not a government establishment and also do not undertake any jobs which the police or other military organisations undertake.

    Sec 140 reads...
    Whoever, not being a soldier, 1[sailor or airman] in the Military, 2[Naval or Air] service of the 3[Government of India], wears any garb or carries any token resembling any garb or token used by such a soldier, 1[sailor or airman] with the intention that it may be believed that he is such a soldier

    The army here again would have to prove that the camouflage pattern is exclusively for Army personnel only. I do understand that if it is the case of the golden rank insignias, army cap badges, medal ribbons etc. this legal provision would hold good. Also here the Army needs to prove (the government officials, or court) that the police have a intention to claim that they are army men.
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