The Indian Army issued a request for proposal in February for a ballistic helmet that could provide protection against high-velocity bullets, as well as being able to lessen the impact from high-speed blast fragments from explosives. New Delhi plans to purchase some 80,000 of the helmets.
India is now also reportedly moving forward to adopt a domestically-produced helmet that could be issued to Sikhs serving in the military. Produced by Kanpur-based MKU, the helmet would be the first of its kind to be designed to be worn over a Sikh soldier's under-turban cloth. In addition, the helmet, dubbed the Veer, is capable of providing all-around ballistic protection against small arms fire and fragments of up to level IIIA.
"Designed specifically for our Sikh heroes - The Veer Helmet can be worn comfortably over their under-turban cloth, giving Sikh soldiers an added layer of safety," the company said in a tweet.
The Veer helmet was developed to be compatible with the Modular Accessory Connector System, a multi-accessory mounting system that enables the head-mounted sensors and modern combat equipment including night vision goggles, cameras on helmets, and communication systems. The lightweight helmet was also designed to be anti-fungal and anti-allergic, and it is weatherproof, chemically safe, flame resistant, and even offers shock absorption to help reduce traumatic head injuries.
Protecting the Sikh Soldiers
While Sikh youth have traditionally chosen to serve in the Indian armed forces as well as central police and paramilitary forces in huge numbers, as part of their religious and cultural traditions Sikhs have generally not worn helmets, which has often resulted in combat injuries that can even lead to death.
“The turban for a Sikh is his pride,” said MKU Managing Director Neeraj Gupta, according to Asian Military Review. “It is not just an article of faith and a symbol of courage, self-respect, dedication and piety, but also an important marker of Sikh identity. India's Sikh soldiers have never hesitated to face bullets even without comfortable headgear to protect them.”
The Indian Army has also been slow to adopt body protection and helmets, even as other nations have seen the benefits of providing protection to soldiers on the battlefield. Though the Indian Army did adopt steel helmets during World War II, many Sikhs opted not to wear the British-made helmets as they couldn't be worn comfortably over the turban.
Many of those older helmets remained in use until the 1970s when fiberglass helmets were gradually introduced. However, those proved ineffective in anti-terrorist operations in Jammu and Kashmir. The bulletproof patka helmet, which was designed by Maj. Gen. VK Datta in the early 1990s, has since become the standard-issue headgear for counterinsurgency operations. Yet, it still couldn't be worn by Sikhs.
“The 'Veer' helmet, from our company offers heroic Sikh soldiers the option of safeguarding their body and life while continuing to wear their under-turban cloth,” Gupta said.
“We observed a need for better head protection for our Sikh troops,” said MKU Chairman Manoj Gupta, according to Financial Express. “The heroes we empower safeguard our freedom, our security and our way of life. And who better to exemplify this spirit of heroism than our Sikh soldiers!”
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.