When all weapons misfire in an honour guard it's indefensible

Never has it happened that all the weapons were loaded with duds.



By Bikram Vohra

Published: Thu 22 Aug 2019, 8:50 PM

Last updated: Thu 22 Aug 2019, 10:51 PM

It is customary in the event of a firing squad being ordered to carry out an execution that one of the weapons has a dud bullet. But no one knows which one it is because it discharges like all others. This is done to alleviate any guilt in taking a life and giving the soldiers' conscience an escape valve.

Never has it happened that all the weapons were loaded with duds.

The odds of that happening are astronomical. But the Bihar police were undeterred by this statistic. At the funeral of the former state Chief Minister Jagannath Mishra the honour guard shuffled up sloppily into an indifferent lineup, raised their rifles in imprecise fashion and fired what should have been a volley, emotionally echoing across the deceased's village of Supaul where the final rites were held.

All 22 weapons misfired and all the crowd got were clicks of the firing pin hitting dud bullets. If the occasion wasn't one of sadness and tragedy it would have been hugely comical. Imagine if you will a military execution and the blindfolded prisoner is getting set to meet his maker and all he gets is a bunch of clicks.

Come on guys, get with it or can I have another last cigarette.

But to be serious, how can things go so wrong? This is not the boy scouts being given a lesson in basic weapons training. Not even the NCC. These are professionals, armed police engaged in a ceremonial activity. Obviously, unless every one of these weapons had been denuded of their firing pins and were being used as training weapons for drills (and no one noticed when they were handed out) the only other cause of such a snafu is bad ammunition. Bullets deteriorate if exposed to too much moisture and poor storage. Actually, these seemed like .303 Lee Enfield weapons from another era and the bullets usually stay active and at 100 per cent efficiency for 10 to 15 years. Even these fossils in the ammo world would have fired sporadically unless they had been fried in very hot temperatures or exposed to high humidity.

The other possibility is that the magazine springs tire out and the bullet does not go into the chamber. But for 22 weapons to suffer the same flaw simultaneously is not likely at all. If you watch the video, the officer in charge is mildly bemused but not reeling with shock that his honour guard has just suffered a total failure to fire. In fact, after he examines the bullet and what we assume is the weak indent on the cap by the pin from the rifle of one of the soldiers he shrugs casually, like okay, can happen, does happen.

All 22, are you joking.

Although the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has red-facedly ordered a probe into this disaster not much is going to come out of it.

It is not the poor arms that police have (the .303 is WW II vintage and older than 90 per cent of 1.2 billion Indians on earth) but the failure to follow the protocol for a ceremonial event and set one's self and one's force up to ridicule which is unforgiveable.

The 21-gun salute is universal and became the norm in the sixteenth century when naval to shore battles were marked by vessels firing seven shot salutes and the shore, having more artillery firing 21 in return in a traditional three to one gesture.

The usual procedure before ceremonial duty is to check out every weapon and the ammo being used and conduct a dry run followed by a rehearsal on the range ensuring the guns and the bullets are operable. Only then do you wear your full service dress and march smartly to the funeral site.

Clearly, this was not done and it becomes incumbent upon the police hierarchy to check out its ammo dump and see how many more cases of ammo are defunct and covered with fungus or have lost their integrity.

One just has to say that such incompetence is not only unacceptable it is unbelievable especially when the cool 'it is no big deal' nonchalance of the police in the aftermath suggests the rot is deep . in the force, their guns and their bullets.
bikram@khaleejtimes.com


More news from OPINION
Unjabbed Djokovic is humbled Down Under

Opinion

Unjabbed Djokovic is humbled Down Under

Real champions put spectators first in the pursuit of glory. Novak, however, has emerged the Djoker of the pack by riding slipshod over the rules. He almost got away with his antics until good sense prevailed and the Australian government and legal system intervened to show him the door.

Opinion1 week ago

India is the market for the next decade

Opinion

India is the market for the next decade

Corporate earnings appear to be on the cusp of revival. The earnings growth is expected to be more than 50 per cent between FY20 and FY22; earnings growth momentum is likely to continue at more than 25 per cent annually over the next couple of years.

Opinion1 week ago

An assault, a trial and a road to nowhere

Opinion

An assault, a trial and a road to nowhere

A day after a leading south Indian actress opened up on social media about her life as victim and survivor of a sexual assault in 2017, a groundswell of support is forming in the film industry of her home state, Kerala.

Opinion1 week ago

Can US elections be made safe from Capitol-type mob violence?

Opinion

Can US elections be made safe from Capitol-type mob violence?

It’s understandable that Biden may be reluctant to prosecute his 2020 election opponent and potential opponent in 2024. Even if neither man runs in 2024, prosecution of a former president by his successor would be a huge distraction from Biden’s efforts to govern, would divide the country even further, and perhaps lead to even worse violence than a year ago.

Opinion1 week ago

Digitisation set to revolutionise healthcare

Opinion

Digitisation set to revolutionise healthcare

The future of healthcare is shaping up in front of us. You will see humanoid robots in many hospitals — many will be unseen, sitting inside computers and providing diagnosis and treatment protocols to help the doctors. Wearables and trackers with remote monitoring has already become quite popular and will increase significantly.

Opinion1 week ago