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Ex-Armyman tweets video of Army band playing Aarti music with misleading claims, liberals blame ‘Modi’s Hindutva’

It is unfair that an ex-soldier himself cherry-picked a single song to cast aspersions on the commitment of the armed forces for the sake of his narrow political views.

Ex-army officer and father of actress Gul Panag, Lieutenant General Harcharanjit Singh Panag (Retired), posted a video of Army Band playing Hindu Aarti Music during Beating Retreat ceremony with a misleading title. In the tweet, he said, “Great leap forward for ceremonial military parades!” and tried to project as it is something new that has happened in the ceremony.

His misleading tweet gave the so-called liberals, intellectuals and Hinduphobes a great chance to ridicule the Indian Army and blame Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Hindutva’ for the same. Panag did not stop at the misleading tweet. When one of the netizens, Akanksha Shandilya, called it beautiful, it further irked Panag, who said, “Religiously incomplete and militarily comical! Currently in suspended animation!”

Tweet by Panag as a reply to Akanksha. Source: Twitter.

Another veteran, Brig RS Pathania, expressed his ‘shock’ over the video and said, “OMG! When did they start this??”

Tweet by (Veteran) Brig RS Pathania. Source: Twitter.

UrbanShrink, who identifies herself as a counsellor for Queers, took a shot at Army and said, “Changing the olive green to narangi saffron are we??”

Tweet by U. Source: Twitter.

Mini Nair, an Author, said, “What are they doing? No wonder we have incursions.”

Tweet by Urban Shrink. Source: Twitter.

RJ Sayema, who is often seen fanning anti-Hindu sentiments and peddling Islamist tropes on social media, said, “What??? Has it come to this??? Unbelievable!!!!”

One may wonder if she knows Army hires Maulvis for the Army Personnel who believe in Muslim faith just like Army hires Granthis, Pandits and other religious scholars so that the soldiers can approach them to seek spiritual guidance if they need to.

Tweet by RJ Sameya. Source: Twitter.

So-called journalist, Arfa Khanum Sherwani, was particularly agitated by the video and said, “Mockery of India’s secular constitution. If you had any doubts about the world’s largest democracy turning into a majoritarian theocratic state.”

Tweet by Arfa Khanum Sherwani. Source: Twitter.

Dr Pooja Tripathi, who identifies herself as an author for New York Times, Economic Times and other publishing houses, called it ‘shameful’ and said, “What is this nonsense and why is this even allowed.”

Tweet by Dr Pooja tripathi. Source: Twitter.

Aarti has been part of beating a retreat for more than a decade

Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge of the central government in 2014. If we go by the logic propagated by Panag and fuelled by the liberal gang, Aarti should have been included in the beating retreat after he became PM. However, in reality, the small portion of the video that Panag shared is not the first time Aarti was played.

A video was shared multiple times from 2008 of passing out a parade of the new officers. The video shared by Panag is recent as the soldiers in the passing out parade are wearing masks which became a norm only after the Covid-19 pandemic. However, saying that it is something new is entirely wrong. 

Pointing fingers at the religious neutrality of the Army is unacceptable

It is a well-known fact that the Indian Army is religiously neutral and respects all religions equally. No matter which religion a soldier belongs to, he would bow down in front of God whether he is called Bhagwan, Jesus Christ, Waheguru or Allah. However, it is sad to see former Army officers like HS Panag who have spent decades in the armed forces ignored to acknowledge the beauty of religious ethos and brotherhood in the armed forces.

Panag has served in the Army from 1969 to 2008. For 39 years, it is hard to believe that he did not come across religious chants, war cries, Guru Granth Sahib Ji’s path, aartis or celebrations on religious festivals. There are countless examples of war cries where the soldiers invoke their respect for the Gods and to boost the morales of the soldiers. Some of the examples include:

  • Rajputana Rifles – Raja Ramchandra Ki Jai
  • Rajput Regiment – Bol Bajrang Bali Ki Jai
  • Dogra Regiment – Jawala Mata Ki jai
  • Sikh Regiment – Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Shri Akal
  • Garwal Rifles – Badri Vishal Lal Ki Jai
  • Kumaon Regiment – Kalika Mata Ki Jai
  • Jammu and Kashmir Rifles – Durga Mata Ki Jai

There are several examples where Hindu traditions are being followed by the soldiers religiously. One of the best examples that one may recall is the story of Tanot Mata Mandir in Rajasthan, which has been maintained by the Border Security Force (BSF) since 1965.

As per the story, the temple that is located on the Indo-Pak border was untouched by the heavy shelling done by Pakistan during the 1965 and 1971 wars. The shells that fell in the premises of the temple failed. Those shells are still placed on display in the temple’s premises. Soldiers regularly attend aarti in the temple, and an undated video of the same can be found on social media platforms.

Several other examples show how the Indian Army has always respected every religion. A report from 2018 suggested when the 12th Sikh Light Infantry moved to Kokrajhar in 2018, they continued with the tradition of celebrating Baisakhi. The images showed a Sikh soldier leading the path for Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji for the path on Baisakhi. It is a tradition to bring Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji from a nearby Gurudwara if someone wants to do a path at their home or, in this case, at Army Base. Once the path is over, Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji is taken back to Gurudwara with full respect.

In a video from 2019, Sikh Army Personnel can be seen carrying Guru Granth Sahib Ji on their head as a mark of respect back to the Gurudwara.

Another undated video was shared in which Sikh Army Personnel is carrying Shri Guru Granth Sahib ji.

In the same way, other religions also find their place in the Army traditions. Indian Army bands also play ‘Abide By Me’, which is a traditional Christian hymn.

Indian Army also recruits religious scholars or teachers from every religion to provide spiritual guidance to the soldiers whenever needed. These scholars include Pandits, Maulvis, Granthis, Monks, Priests and more. Regular advertisements are placed in the newspapers for the same.

Attempts to tarnish the image of the Indian Army over false religious narratives have been made before. However, The Indian Army remains committed to its duty and ethos. They do not ask the religion of the people before rescuing them from flood-hit villages and carrying pregnant women and the elderly on their backs to hospitals in harsh terrains.

As far as Army band playing a particular tune is concerned, they have always played popular tunes. The choice of the tune and song depends upon the popularity and relatability. It is unfair that an ex-soldier himself cherry-picked a single song to cast aspersions on the commitment of the armed forces for the sake of his narrow political views.

Verdict: The tweet published by Panag was misleading, and claims by others that the Army started playing Aarti after PM Modi took charge of the central government are FAKE.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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B.Sc. Multimedia, a journalist by profession.

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