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9 Oct, 2023 12:05

Indian Navy to replace more relics of colonial past – report

The country’s naval forces are set to implement ‘Indianized’ designations for sailors and gender-neutral changes to the ranks
Indian Navy to replace more relics of colonial past – report

The Indian Navy has taken a significant step towards replacing designations inherited from the British era with culturally Indian alternatives. This move comes as part of the ongoing effort to remove “symbols of the British colonial era,” as reported by the Hindustan Times on Sunday.

Two unnamed officials aware of the matter told the newspaper that the navy will also implement “gender-neutral changes to the ranks” soon. Notably, the Indian Navy only began recruiting women sailors earlier this year under the government’s new Agnipath recruitment scheme, which seeks to recruit soldiers for a four-year contract. The first batch of ‘Agniveers,’ including around 270 women, graduated from a training facility in Odisha, a state in eastern India, and joined the service in March.

Talking to the Hindustan Times, one official said that seven ranks below officers, including three that are not gender-neutral, will soon be redesignated. Officer ranks, however, will stay the same.

“The existing terms are an embodiment of British traditions. Also, gender-neutral ranks are a must to make the service environment inclusive,” an official told the outlet. “The new designations have been sent to the Defense Ministry for approval, which is expected soon.”

The navy has already taken many measures to do away with colonial-era traditions – from adopting a new ensign that draws inspiration from Indian ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji to doing away with batons for commanders and allowing traditional Indian wear in officers’ messes.

India’s Ministry of Defense has also started a drive to rename 58 British-era ‘cantonments,’ preferring to call them ‘military stations,’ according to a statement made by the government to parliament on July 24.

These changes come against the backdrop of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling for “erasing colonial customs and adopting Indian ways in the armed forces.”

Modi announced a new “blueprint” for the country’s growth for the next 25 years during his speech on the 75th anniversary of India’s independence in 2021. The same year, he urged the armed forces to rid themselves of “antiquated” colonial-era practices. In 2022, at the commissioning ceremony of the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, the PM called for “relieving the nation of its colonial past” without diluting the armed forces’ “rich and unique legacy.”