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RISE OF THE MARATHA WARRIOR

Lt Gen P.J.S. Pannu (Retd.)

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Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is the most revered icon of the Marathas who laid the foundation of Swaraj (self-rule) in the Indian sub-continent. The year 1670 was a watershed year when, on 4 February, a small contingent of sharp warriors selected by Shivaji climbed the Kondana fort near Pune in the most ingenious manner and attacked the heavily guarded fort, sited on a hilltop with cliff around it, taking the defenders by a complete surprise. A fierce hand to hand combat ensued, defeating the Army of Mughals. This significant success by a small contingent became a great motivation for creation of a larger force. The Marathas soon captured many forts in quick succession leading to the rise of the Maratha Warrior with Shivaji Maharaj as their crowned leader.

The Maratha Light Infantry is one of the oldest regiments of the Indian Army, raised 253 years ago. The battle cry of the regiment is ‘Bol Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Ki Jai’. These units have a bust of Shivaji as the central symbol of motivation. Shivaji Maharaj trained his soldiers in Guerrilla Warfare. The Maratha units were formed under the title of Bombay Sepoys by the British in 1768. Soon the Regiment earned glory, especially during the Great Wars when it was given the title of ‘Light Infantry’ where the units had demonstrated their ability to mount surprise attacks at lightening speeds. This was symbolically reflected in the Regimental contingents marching at a faster pace of 140 steps in a minute as compared to other infantry units pacing 120 at the ceremonial parades. These units were apt at striking from the flanks wearing dark uniforms. The Second Battalion, The Maratha Light Infantry was nicknamed Kali Panchwin—the dark unit. Till date, these units wear the badges of rank and crests over black backings, reflecting their ability to fight with stealth and surprise. The ceremonial drill has another uniqueness, there is no word of command as ‘Savdhan’—the Maratha soldier is never brought to ‘attention’, symbolising that the troops are launched into action without warning. Such traits in the units come from the Maratha Warrior’s way of war-fighting—a legacy of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

The Saga of capture of Kondana fort defines the Regiment’s motto Duty-Honour-Courage. When Shivaji called his most trusted lieutenant Tanaji Malusre and tasked him for capturing the Kondana fort, he learnt that Tanaji was preparing for his son Raiba’s wedding. Realizing this, Shivaji asked Tanaji to postpone the capture plan and instead go ahead with the wedding of Raiba; Tanaji felt that he must do the duty first in executing this honorable task and said “Pehle shadi Kondana ki, fir mere bete Raiba ki. “First, let me marry the Kondana, and later shall I get Raiba married”. He took the select handful of soldiers on the night of 4 February 1670, climbed the sharp cliff of the fort using the rope tied to a Ghorpad (Monitor Lizard) nicknamed Yashwanti and unsuspectedly charged on the enemy. While putting up a very courageous hand to hand fight, Tanaji Malusre lost his life. His warriors however captured the fort using surprise and lightening attack. On hearing this news of victory, he grieved the loss of Tanaji saying ‘Garh Ala Pan Sinh Gela’ (We have vanquished the fort but lost the Lion). Since then, he renamed Kondana fort as ‘Sinhgarh’ which means ‘Fort captured by his Lion’. The Maratha Light Infantry adopted ‘Sinhgarh’ as the martial marching tune usually played by the Regimental Band for the ceremonial March. The Motto ‘Duty – Honour – Courage’ of the regiment is a testimony of the rich martial history of the Regiment. The Regiment rightly celebrates 04 February, each year as the Maratha Day.

The Maratha LI is the only regiment in the Indian Army that has contributed to two Special Forces of the Indian Army, that is 2 Para (SF) erstwhile 3 Maratha LI and 21 Para (SF) erstwhile 21 Maratha LI. The Regiment is affiliated with 20 Squadron IAF also nicknamed as ‘Lightnings’- one of the first squadrons of the IAF to be equipped with Sukhoi Aircraft. Both titles signify warriors that relate to the speed of light. The Regiment also is affiliated with one of the most powerful Indian Navy’s destroyers in the Indian Ocean named INS Mumbai, that demonstrates the glory of the sea faring Force under the Maratha Admiral Shivaji Kanhoji Angre. Similarly, The Coast Guard unit located at Diu is also affiliated. The Maratha warrior was trained in different forms of warfare, apt at fighting Guerilla Warfare, set piece battles as also capable of mounting attacks from the seas. No wonder the British were vary of Shivaji who proved to be a handful not only to Mughals but also the British.

In an incident, during the Second world war, the British were facing a challenge of not being able to motivate the Marathas to fight for the British cause. The British Commanding officer of the 3 Maratha asked the Subedar Major of the unit, “Sahib, what would motivate the soldiers to fight”? The Subedar Major was quick to advise that the Battle cry of the unit should be ‘Bol Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Ki Jai’. The Commanding officer saw fire in the eyes of the Marathas, on shouting the newly adopted battle cry. The Marathas charged into the defences of the enemy like lightening, bringing the unit repeated glory in the battle. The units of the Maratha LI continue to perform very gallantly in the battlefield with this battle cry. The Regiment is decorated with two Victoria Cross winners in the Great War and post-independence too has been one of the highest decorated regiments of the Indian Army to include five Ashok Chakras won in Counter Insurgency Operations. The regiment prides itself in winning the Battle Honour ‘Sharqat’ at Mesopotamia, wherein, in a single action maximum number of gallantry awards were won by a single unit—still an unbeatable record.

As Colonel of the Maratha Light Infantry, I was privileged to be associated with this martial race who have given a gallant account of itself across ages and times in battlefields across the globe. Yuan Chwang, a Chinese philosopher traveler of the 7th century describes Marathas as simple, honest, proud and reserved. He observes that these people return kindness with gratitude but if anyone injures them; they risk their life to wipe out the dishonor. He points at their special trait of never failing to warn the enemy but sparing those who surrender. Even after 13 centuries of this observation, the traits of the Maratha Warrior are as stellar as described by Chwang. I am proud to have commanded men of such virtues. The Maratha Light Infantry song, in its first stanza describes this trait “Mard amhi Marathe Khare, Dushamana la Bhare Kapare” (We are pure Brave Warriors, who make the enemy shiver).

This year too, the Regiment would mark 4 February as the Maratha Day with renewed gusto, as the Indian armed forces face new challenges on the national borders.

Lt Gen P.J.S. Pannu was commissioned into 22 Maratha LI and commanded the same unit. He was the Colonel of the Maratha LI for over five years. He is also a former DG Infantry and Former Deputy Chief of IDS.

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Defence

‘ARMY CAN MEET ANY CHALLENGE TO SAFEGUARD COUNTRY’

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The Army is fully prepared to meet any challenge like the use of drones and social media by adversaries to safeguard the country, said Commandant of Chennai-based Officers Training Academy (OTA) Lieutenant General M K Das. Lt Gen Das, who is also the colonel of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI) regiment, said the situation in J&K is getting better with the Army and other security agencies working together to stamp out terrorism. Speaking to media on the sidelines of the maiden attestation parade of 460 new recruits of the 126th batch after a successful 40-week training period at Dansal here, he said the Indian Army is aware of the challenges and prepared to give a befitting response to the enemies of the nation.

Talking about the need to introduce special training courses for soldiers in the aftermath of the developments in Afghanistan, he said, “Our training is very contemporary as it caters for all the contingencies and unforeseen situations. My young soldiers, who have taken the oath to defend the constitution and the country, will live up to all the challenges. One of the unique things of this regiment (JAKLI) is all our troops hail from J&K and Ladakh. They have ingrained quality to be security conscious much more than others.” Lt Gen Das said, “All the situations unfolding in the country or in our neighbourhood, the JAKLI regiment will continue to excel and be the lead agency in the fight against terrorism.” Asked about the challenges posed by the use of drones to hit targets and deliver weapons and narcotics from across the LoC and International Border, he said a capsule course on anti-drone measures has been introduced. “On Army Day on 15 January, our chief took the threat seriously and our soldiers are being prepared to deal with the challenge in a better way.” During recruitment training, Lt Gen Das said that besides the arms handing and exercises, thrust is also given on science and technology, cybersecurity and other new challenges. He said the misuse of social media by “anti-national” elements is a reality and the new recruits are being trained in cybersecurity during their basic and orientation courses.

On attempts by Pakistan to mislead the youth of J&K, Lt Gen Das said, “The youth of J&K is showing keenness to be a part of the regiment which is a message to those who think they can mislead our youth. Joining the regiment is the best way to serve the nation, the youth live like a family and there is complete communal harmony.” He said the regiment is increasing the number of local youth from Ladakh and would also go for recruitment in J&K to provide an opportunity to the local youth to become part of this regiment. Asked about his message to the misguided youth, he said, “J&K is the crown of India but if I focus as a soldier, I feel they (misguided youth) have not understood their country… the situation has not gone out of hand and the Army has kept its window open to allow them to surrender and join the national mainstream.”

He added, “We have a unit of 162 Infantry Territorial Army who are former militants but have become upright soldiers.” Lt Gen Das said the Army and other security agencies are working in close coordination and the situation in J&K is getting better and the “day is not far when this region will make our country proud.”

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Defence

SOUTHERN NAVAL COMMAND OBSERVES INTERNATIONAL COASTAL CLEAN-UP DAY IN KOCHI

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The Southern Naval Command observed International Coastal Clean-up Day on Saturday with a focus on mangrove plantation and clearance of plastic/non-biodegradable waste along with waterfront areas in and around Kochi, said a press release from the Ministry of Defence.

Pursuant to the global campaign of keeping coastlines clean, more than 600 Naval personnel and the families of Southern Naval Command undertook clearance of plastic and non-biodegradable waste at different locations spread across the city, coastal areas such as Fort Kochi beach, Thevara waterfront, Willingdon Island, Cherai beach, Bolgatty and around 2 km stretch of the Venduruthy channel while restoring around 1 lakh sqm of mangroves to the pristine condition. In addition, 80 mangrove saplings were also planted along the Venduruthy channel. Similar coastal cleanup drives and lectures/webinars/competitions emphasising protection of the coastal and marine environment were undertaken with the enthusiastic participation of the Naval community at other outstation Naval units located at Lonavala, Jamnagar, Chilka, Coimbatore, Goa, Ezhimala and Mumbai.

Being the Training Command of the Indian Navy, the Southern Naval Command has always been at the vanguard in promoting environmental conservation activities both at the Command Headquarters, Kochi as well as at Naval stations spread across the country.

Mandated to oversee naval training, the Southern Naval Command has conceptualised and implemented a variety of green initiatives. Keeping environmental preservation as one of the Key Result Areas, the Command has constantly endeavoured to motivate young officer and sailor trainees of the Indian Navy to imbibe the habit of protecting mother nature as part of their grooming efforts in preparing them to become responsible future Naval leaders and dependable citizens of India.

Particular attention has also been given to create more awareness among the families and more importantly the children.

During the last three years, the Command has adopted a multi-dimensional approach towards conservation of the environment and implementation of energy conservation methods.

To highlight a few, the personnel of the Command were actively involved in the rejuvenation of 4.5-km-long Venduruthy Channel near Kochi Naval base, creating awareness in and around Naval establishments.

Efforts were undertaken to enhance green cover by conducting mass plantation drives which included planting more than 75,000 trees, using the fast-growing Miyawaki forestation method. In addition, regular coastal clean-up drives, mangrove plantation drives, in-house handling and recycling of bio and non-biodegradable waste, adopting efficient energy and water-saving methods etc were also undertaken. The Command has also earnestly endeavoured to continue all the efforts for protecting and conserving the environment and natural resources. Towards achieving the same, the Command has implemented a Green Initiative and Environment Conservation Roadmap with a prime focus on Carbon footprint reduction.

With the personal involvement of Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command is committed to creating a clean, green and healthy environment in line with the visionary environment conservation policies of the Govt of India. On the occasion, Adv M Anilkumar, Mayor, Kochi Municipal Corporation and staff also participated in Kochi.

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Defence

IAF TO HOLD AIR SHOW OVER DAL LAKE IN SRINAGAR ON 26 SEPT

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An air show will be held here on 26 September where IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga and Suryakiran Aerobatic and Display Team and paramotor flying will manoeuvre the skies over the famous Dal Lake, officials informed on Saturday.

The air show will be organised by the Air Force Station Srinagar and the Jammu and Kashmir administration as part of the ongoing celebrations commemorating ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, they said. The main aim of the exercise—under the theme ‘Give Wings to Your Dream’—is to motivate the youth of the valley to join the Indian Air Force (IAF) and to promote tourism in the region, the officials said.

The event will be flagged off Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) overlooking Dal Lake.

More than 3,000 college and school students are expected to participate in the programme to witness the impressive manoeuvres of the IAF, which will motivate them to dream about a career in the force and in the aviation sector, the officials said. “The show will also develop passion among the students to give wings to their dreams. Along with the students, 700 teachers will also be present at the venue,” they added.

During the demonstration, students will also be familiarised with the new technological advancements achieved and incorporated by the IAF while flying aircraft in the sky over the world-famous Dal Lake, the officials said. Stalls will be established at SKICC where students will be familiarised with the achievements of the Air Force, employment opportunities in the IAF, recruitment rules and eligibility criteria, they added.

Srinagar-based PRO Defence Col Emron Musavi said the display will include flypast by various aircraft of the IAF. The spectators would also get to witness paramotor flying and IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga in action. ‘Ambassadors of IAF’, Suryakiran Aerobatic Display Team, will be performing in the valley after a gap of 14 years, he said. Col Musavi said the symphony orchestra of the IAF would also be performing at the event. The event would also consist of a photo exhibition depicting the history of the

IAF, he said. 

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Defence

ARMY ORGANISES EXHIBITION IN JAIPUR TO COMMEMORATE INDIA’S VICTORY IN 1971 WAR

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JAIPUR : South Western Command of the Indian Army on Saturday organised an exhibition showcasing defence equipment at Chitrakoot Stadium in Jaipur to mark the 50th anniversary of India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war.

Speaking to ANI, an Indian army official said, “We have displayed the defence equipment in this exhibition to make people aware of the Indian army achievements. We want to motivate the youth by showcasing these types of equipment.” “Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, these events had been started to make people aware of Indian Arm Forces. So, we are also continuing the move by organising these kinds of events,” he added.

Further, he said that India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war is memorable for all the Indians, so, every citizen should be aware of this war.  

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Defence

BRO makes history, appoints woman Army officer in-charge of road construction unit

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The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has appointed a woman Army officer for the first as the Officer Commanding of its 75 road construction company (RCC) in Uttarakhand, the Defence Ministry said on Sunday.

The three platoon commanders under Major Aaina, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K became the first women RCC. The appointments were made on August 30.

BRO on Sunday recalled the list of women officers who were assigned higher leadership roles in the organisation in the current year.

According to a statement issued by the Defence Ministry, BRO has inducted a large number of women into its workforce over the years, right from officers to the level of commercial pilot license holders. “In this regard, a General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) officer EE (Civ) Vaishali S Hiwase took over the reins of 83 Road Construction Company on April 28, employed on an important Indo-China road connecting Munisairi-Bughdiar-Milam, in an area full of adversity and challenges. The lady officer has taken control and is leading the charge with meticulous execution of her tasks,” the statement said.

“The BRO created history again on 30 August when Major Aaina of Project Shivalik took charged as Officer Commanding, 75 Road Construction Companies (RCC) at Pipalkoti in Chamoli district in Uttarakhand. She is the first Indian Army Engineer Officer to command a road construction company. Not only this, all three platoon commanders under her, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K are lady officers and they have together created a first-ever women RCC. The Border Roads plans to make four such all women-led RCCs, two each in North Eastern and Western Sectors.”

As India celebrates 75 Years of Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, it also celebrates the ongoing efforts of our Nation towards women empowerment. Women today have started assuming their rightful, equal place as the frontrunners in nation-building and representatives of our strong national character, the statement read.

Over the last six decades, in a graduated and steady manner, the BRO has increased the number of women employed in various roles and duties of road construction. A consolidated effort is being made to empower them by giving them authority and responsibilities to undertake work independently. These women have become symbols of Nari Shakti in their respective areas.

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Defence

IN FIRST FOREIGN VISIT AFTER TAKING OVER AS CDS, GEN BIPIN RAWAT TO VISIT RUSSIA, US

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In his first visit abroad after taking over as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat will be visiting Russia and the US.

Rawat took over his new office as CDS on 31 December 2019, and since then has been declining foreign invitations for focusing on the new assignment of integrating the defence forces as a combined fighting force. “There is a conference of the CDS-rank officers of the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement member countries. China and Pakistan are also part of this grouping,” senior defence officials said.

The CDS conference would be focusing on addressing the regional security issues and Afghanistan is also likely to come up for discussion, they said.

The CDS would also witness the activities of the respective armed forces taking part in the SCO peace mission drills being held in Russia. Indian Army and Air Force are also taking part in the exercise there.

The visit will take place in the coming week and soon after return from Russia, Rawat would be leaving for the US for meeting his counterpart and other American military leadership at the Pentagon.

The two countries have been coming closer militarily in the last few years and have been holding multiple military exercises and hardware cooperation.

The Indian military saw a major change in senior-level structures under the Narendra Modi government as the focus is now on the theatrisation of the fighting forces and bringing in more capabilities and jointness among the three services. 

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