In line with the new tradition of the tri-services organising their flagship ceremonial events outside the national capital, Navy Day celebrations this year will be held at the iconic Sindhudurg Fort off the Maharashtra coast, built by Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in the 17th century, officials aware of the matter said on Thursday.
India celebrates Navy Day on December 4 to commemorate the Indian Navy’s attack on the Karachi harbour during the 1971 war against Pakistan.
Navy Day was celebrated in Visakhapatnam last year, the first time it was taken outside New Delhi. The Indian Army and the Indian Air Force organised their annual parades in Bengaluru and Chandigarh last year. This year’s Air Force Day parade will be held at Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh on October 8.
“Navy Day was celebrated on the east coast last year. This year, the celebrations will be organised on the west coast. The venue has been chosen carefully and the Sindhudurg Fort meets the navy’s requirements to conduct an operational demonstration of its frontline assets. It also has rich maritime history,” said one of the officials cited above, asking not to be named.
The Sindhudurg Fort was built in the 1660s.
Last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled the navy’s new ensign at the commissioning ceremony of aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, with the flag drawing inspiration from the seal of the Maratha king, dropping the Cross of St George. The PM called it ‘getting rid of the burden of a colonial past’.
Key conferences of the armed forces, including the Combined Commanders’ Conference, have also been held outside New Delhi after the NDA government came to power nine years ago.
On April 1, Modi assessed the operational readiness of the armed forces in the backdrop of the lingering border row with China, carried out a security review, and asked the military to stay prepared for new and emerging threats at the Combined Commanders’ Conference held in Bhopal.
Before that, on March 6, Union defence minister Rajnath Singh addressed the inaugural session of a top navy meeting aboard India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, the move bringing into greater focus the country’s efforts towards achieving self-reliance in the defence manufacturing sector.
The armed forces have sharpened their focus not only on indigenisation of military hardware but also of customs.
The call for doing away with colonial customs and adopting Indian ways in the armed forces was made by the prime minister in March 2021 during the Combined Commanders’ Conference at Kevadia in Gujarat when he asked the three services to rid themselves of legacy systems and practices that are no longer relevant.
He had then underlined the importance of enhancing indigenisation in the national security system, not just in sourcing equipment and weapons but also in doctrines, procedures and customs.
In his 2022 Independence Day speech, Modi spoke of the “panch pran”, or five pledges, for India to become a developed country by its 100th year of independence, one of those being to uproot all signs of colonial slavery from our mindset and habits.
In line with the broader directions from the PM, the navy decided in July that its personnel will no longer carry ceremonial batons. Senior officers in command roles, commanding officers of warships, naval bases and other establishments, and provost personnel responsible for policing, vigilance and enforcement of discipline used to carry batons. The navy said the symbolism of power portrayed by holding such batons was a colonial legacy.
Smart traditional Indian wear may also soon be allowed in naval officers’ messes, said a second official.
The defence ministry has also begun a drive to rename British-era cantonments as military stations. It has shared broad modalities with state governments for a proposed separation of civilian areas in 58 cantonments across the country, with the move aimed at bringing uniformity in municipal laws governing these areas and adjoining municipal pockets.
Yol in Himachal Pradesh was the first cantonment to shed the colonial tag and be renamed as a military station in April 2023. That was the first step in the drive to merge civilian areas in cantonments, created during the British era, with municipal corporations and municipalities, and designate them as military stations.