Why are Certain Indian Special Forces Allowed to Keep Beard and Long Hair?

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It is a fact that Indian Armed Forces don’t allow beard or facial hairs for its soldiers. It is all based on maintaining discipline and uniformity. Not only beard, the military does not even allow its men to have longer hairs that cover the ears or longer than ‘moderate length’. There are few Indian special forces where beard is allowed.

Facial hair in the military has been common, prohibited, or an integral part of the uniform, all at the same time. Take, for instance, the Dogra regiment which asks its men to keep moustache which covers their cheeks.

Unless you are a Sikh or are in Para SF, MARCOS or one of the Navy personnel who is allowed to grow beards subject to the permission of the respective commanding officer, no, there is no exceptions. The rule stands same for all.

Sikhs are permitted to keep a well-maintained beard and untrimmed hair across the services. However, these permissions differ across services and regiments.

Having a beard is among the ‘fundamental tenets’ of Sikhism. The Army is a disciplined force and denominational differences among its members based on religion, caste etc. cannot be permitted.

Sikhs imply the basis of their religions with the 5 Ks – Kesh, Kangha, Kara, Kachcha and Kirpan. And Kesh (uncut hair) is one among it.

Yes, this means that if a Sikh does not want to have long hairs and sport a beard, he has to do so as long as he is enrolled as a Sikh in the services. He has to wear the same turban on short hairs just as other Sikhs. Here is the Air Force rule pointing to that:

Coming onto the Indian Special Forces operative who sport beard there can be many varied reasons :

  1. To induce familiarity with local population
    Shaheed (Martyred) Capt. Pawan Kumar of 10th Para SF

    Beards are kept in Kashmir where due to majority of population being Muslim sport a beard. Special Forces Operative can also keep a beard so that they can familiarise with local population during covert ops and also to blend with the local populace so as to keep your identity secret.Like this as beards can be ‘life-saving’ accessory during cross-border strikes and covert ops. They also spend days after days in enemy terrain, and doesn’t get much time to trim.

    MARCOS also keep beard so as to keep their identity secret and they are so dreaded by terrorists now that they are called ‘dadhi-wala fauz’ by them.

    For intelligence guys and covert ops behind the enemy lines beards are important to be common with local populace.

    2. To keep warm:(Might seem odd!)

    Posted at high altitude posts only beard and excess hair can keep you warm internally. (This is from the personal narrative of a Rashtriya Rifles trooper I have met). Beards are quite beneficial there as they capture heat escaping from your body and help you keep warm.

    Harsh B Mishra is a writer on DefenceLover, he also loves to write on Quora. You can follow him on Quora for more interesting knowledge on special forces.

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