Why are soldiers incensed with Ajit Doval over this year’s Beating Retreat ceremony?


Friday saw the age-old Beating Retreat tradition in Delhi’s Vijay Chowk near Rashtrapati Bhavan. The magnificent musical extravaganza, which has become a hallmark of this ceremony, culminated the Republic Day celebrations.

As has been the practice for the last 67 years, the puffed-up chests of the marchers, the colourful pageantry of military bands coupled with manoeuvres, the fanfare by buglers and the meticulous stride of soldiers in fatigues presented an evening worth remembering.

However, there was two exceptions made in this year’s Beating Retreat ceremony. For the first time the ceremony, a military tradition passed down to India from the British, saw the inclusion of Indian classical instruments such as sitar, tabla and santoor.

This year’s Beating Retreat also saw This year also saw the police and Central Armed Police Forces bands participating for the first time.

Among those who openly criticised the decision to include Indian classical instruments in an otherwise purely military event was the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah.

He tweeted, ““Whose idea was it to introduce the santoor & sitar to the #BeatingRetreat? Please bring back those drummers, please!”

Both these exceptions also left the traditionalists among the serving and retired soldiers incredibly unhappy.

Members of a WhatsApp group consisting of both the retired and serving soldiers endlessly debated the topic by expressing their outrage on this development.

Some even blamed the National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval behind bringing the police force into the mix of what’s been an exclusively military event up until now.

Here’s a snapshot of the WhatsApp conversation on this subject:

MD: Hi are these Indian classical instrument like Sitar and Tabla at Beating Retreat a new thing?

SP‬: Wow but just wondering how that can be part of band …
KS: Meanwhile a short read on BTR https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beating_Retreat The ceremony was started in the early 1950s when Major Roberts of the Indian Army developed the ceremony of display by the massed bands in which Military Bands, Pipes and Drums Bands, Buglers and Trumpeters from various Army Regiments besides the bands Navy and Air Force take part, thus a handover of British influence.

MH: Beating Retreat. Good music but totally disappointed with what I saw. CRPF and State Police bands introduced for the first time. What has the Police forces to do with the event which is purely meant to reflect and remember old traditions? If good music was the aim AR Rehman would have done the best. Military bands represent the marching army in combat. They are not meant to play sitting down with Tabla and Harmonium in an event like this. Such music are played on an auditorium. Pipes did not play a medley and went straight to drummers call. Pipes represent the foot soldier. The order of the bands shifted to Police Bands, Air Force, Navy and Army. Perhaps the Government is kick-starting Defence reforms from the Bands!

S‬: MH. …agree with you man. Sorry state of  affairs…. bureaucracy diluting military tradition. Wonder if having Doval as NSA is the cause of police starting to take front place, like the NSG at pathankot….

PAK: Infact the BR while was a deviation from traditional practice, there was a different approach, some of us did discuss this deviation and concurrently agreed that the break from tradition is detrimental to preserving the History, rather than sucking up to Idiots in the guise of modernity.

KG: I know this is a touchy topic on this group.. Not with standing the intro of other bands or types of instruments, the band that stole the show yesterday was the Naval band. The drummers!