ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Yogi as a Pugilist

Psychotherapy-cum-Martial Exercise in the Indian Armed Forces

The way in which the secular practice of yoga is being saffronised by a government that has made it compulsory for the armed and paramilitary forces looks like yet another attempt to supplement colonial model-based recruitment on the basis of caste and region, by psychologically indoctrinating jawans in the values and norms of Hindutva.

During the recent International Yoga Day celebrations, the media highlighted the participation of the Indian armed forces in it. They described how soldiers from the snow-capped Siachen in the north to sailors on Indian warships in the contentious South China Sea celebrated the occasion. On New Delhi’s Rajpath, General Dalbir Singh Suhag, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, and Admiral R K Dhowan presented themselves, heeding the call of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who led the mega event. The government has made yoga compulsory for soldiers of the seven paramilitary forces, including the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), and the Border Security Force (BSF), among others, through a 26 May 2015 circular (Singh 2015).

But behind this media-hyped gung-ho, all does not seem well in the barracks of our jawans. According to Ministry of Defence statistics, at least 1,383 Indian soldiers lost their lives between 2001 and 2011, not because of Pakistani bullets, but because of suicides and fratricides (known as “fragging”). In 2014 alone, at least 100 defence personnel died due to these causes. The official statistics indicate a shocking average of 125 soldiers every year either killing themselves, or being killed by their fellow soldiers. The Navy and Air Force are losing 23 men every year on an average because of these problems. The main reasons for the rise in such suicidal and homicidal acts among jawans are said to be uncomfortable living conditions, oppressive behaviour by their superior officers, and denial of leave to rejoin their families (Shah 2015).1

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