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31 Jul, 2023 08:29

Indian navy sheds symbol of British colonial era ‘with immediate effect’

The Indian PM has urged the armed forces to rid themselves of antiquated practices
Indian navy sheds symbol of British colonial era ‘with immediate effect’

The Indian navy announced on Friday that its personnel will no longer carry ceremonial batons, following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to abandon colonial practices in the armed forces. Batons had been carried by commanding officers of warships, naval bases and others in command roles or entrusted with enforcing discipline. 

Naval headquarters in New Delhi instructed that batons be placed “appropriately” in the office of the head of every unit, according to ANI news agency. “The symbolism of power or authority portrayed through holding the baton is a colonial legacy that is out of place in a transformed navy of the Amrit Kaal,” the statement from HQ read.

‘Amrit Kaal’ roughly translates to ‘golden era’ and signifies the most auspicious period to start a new project in ancient Vedic astrology. It derives from Prime Minister Modi’s speech given on the 75th anniversary of independence in 2021, when he announced a new blueprint for India's growth for the next 25 years. 

The same year, Modi urged the armed forces to rid themselves of 'antiquated' colonial-era practices. In 2022, at the commissioning ceremony of the aircraft carrier INS Vikran, he ambiguously called for relieving the nation of its colonial past without diluting its armed forces’ rich and unique legacy. The Indian leader unveiled a new flag, no longer bearing the Cross of St. George, but drawing inspiration from the seal of Maratha king Shivaji Maharaj.

Similarly, the ministry of defense has started a drive to rename 58 British-era ‘cantonments’, preferring to call them ‘military stations’, according to a statement made by the government in parliament on July 24. 

Despite the military’s bid to “de-colonize” its customs, rituals, and procedures, some traditions inherited from the British era still hold sway. For instance, an estimated 30,000 personnel performing the functions of ‘batmen’, or personal servants to British army officers, continue to be assigned to serve Indian army officers. In the mid-1980s, the batmen were renamed as ‘sahayaks’ (helpers) to dissociate them from their colonial links, but the practice is yet to be done away with.