One really must hand it to 61 Cavalry. Their devotion to the game of Polo surpasses anything else. It really does not matter if the morale and discipline in the regiment is in tatters after the alleged brutal beating up of a jawan by some officers. It also does not matter if the Indian and Pakistani troops are engaged in a confrontation on the International Border and the Line of Control which threatens to spiral out of control. For 61 Cavalry, Polo comes first. Which is why perhaps, disregarding the situation within the regiment and on the borders of the country, a contingent of the regiment rushed to
China to take part in a
Polo match with Pakistan.
It also does not matter that the Indian Polo Association, on whose behalf the 61 Cavalry takes part in Polo tournaments, is not even recognized by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. This amazing fact has been admitted by the Ministry in a RTI reply. However, more of it later.
In the circumstances prevailing on the country’s border, it should be eminently avoidable for any Indian Army contingent to take part in a direct match with
Leave aside the fact that such matches have no sanctity in the eyes of the
Indian government, the Indian Army itself as well as the Quarter Master
General’s Branch should have been seized of the gravity of the situation and
should have called off the participation of the Indian Army officers in the
The fact of the matter is that
and Pakistan played in the
Zone ‘D’ play offs in China
where Pakistan today
defeated India to qualify
for the World Cup to be held in Chile
in March 2015. The teams of India
and Pakistan arrived in Tianjin city of China on Oct 7 where the match was
played Metropolitan Polo Club. Horse draw and team meeting was held on Oct 8, a practice match was held
on Oct 9 and the actual match was played today i.e. October 11.
The Indian team comprised Lt Col Ravi Rathore (61 Cav), Maj Vishal Chauhan (61 Cav), Simran Shergill, Abhimanyu Singh, Naveen Singh, Kuldeep Singh, Team Manager Lokendra Singh.
Interestingly, the Commandant of 61 Cavalry, Col R Pattu was the manager of this team and had very nearly left for
China but for
the unfortunate happenings in his unit and he was dissuaded from leaving at
such a crucial juncture. A Court of Inquiry is taking place into the incidents
in the unit and as per media reports an FIR has also been filed by the wife of
the affected jawan, naming four officers for assaulting her husband brutally.
While there can be an elaborate discussion on the command and control situation in 61 Cavalry over the years and the manner in which the image of the regiment is being affected, but that should be the subject of another post. This regiment has no other person that the Chief of Army Staff Gen Dalbir Singh as its Colonel of Regiment by virtue of his appointment as the Army Chief. Therefore, all steps taken by the regiment must be keeping in regard the high office that the Army Chief holds.
Again, it is a matter of a long discussion as to why the Indian Polo Association is not affiliated to the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. I have elaborated on this earlier in my blog too. However, to put it in a nutshell, the IPA did not appoint any Public Information Officer under the RTI ACT, as demanded by the Ministry, therefore it seized to be affiliated to it and does not get any funds from it.
This reluctance to be a part of the RTI Act is also exhibited by the Army Polo and Riding Club which has successfully stonewalled all attempts to gather information about its activities despite the fact that it uses all assets and personnel of the Army and comes within the definition of a public authority.
It can be nobody’s case that when it comes to encouraging sports activities, the Indian Army is doing a great service to the nation. It also cannot be denied that if not for the Army, the nation would be nowhere in the game of Polo. However, it is quite clear that the higher echelons of the Army are being kept in dark about the actual position of the IPA vis-à-vis the government.
The lack of transparency is a bane and since 61 Cavalry is deeply involved in all Polo affairs of the Army it is only correct that all facts should be out in the open and nothing should be concealed or hidden.
It is, perhaps, also time to debate the relevance of a horsed cavalry unit in the Indian Army. 61 Cavalry needs to be better utilized. For purposes of tradition the President’s Body Guards are enough as they too are horsed. The 61 Cavalry Regiment should be mechanized so that its traditions and history are not lost, but it certainly should do more than just parading down the Rajpath once a year and its officers taking part in Polo matches under the auspices of a association which is not even recognised.
Lekin ye qissa phir kabhi.