Sunday, Jul 03, 2022

The Knights on White Horse

The Shwet Ashw team of the Corps of Military Police set the benchmark for motorcycle display riding teams even as it continues to break new ground.

The Shwet Ashw team forming the pyramid.

Of all the motorcycle display teams supported of the Indian Army and central paramilitary forces, the Shwet Ashw (White Horse) team of the Corps of Military Police based out of the CMP Centre and School in Bengaluru carries the most enduring legacy.

When India was still taking small steps on the road to freedom, the country’s oldest motorcycle display team was raised at the CMP Centre and School in 1952 when it was still based in Faizabad in Uttar Pradesh. It was christened as Shwet Ashw by the then Chief of the Army Staff, Gen. AS Vaidya. According to various historical records, the team was raised to showcase the role of the Military Police’s motorcycle outriders, who lead convoys of high dignitaries and state guests.

From its modest start, by 1977 Shwet Ashw was crisscrossing the span of India out its permanent base in Bangalore, putting up shows of its daredevilry. But it was their display at the opening ceremony of the 9th Asian Games in Delhi in 1982 that put them in the international spotlight. Soon enough, Shwet Ashw was much in demand for their breathtaking displays at high-profile events like the 8th Asian Track and Field Championship and Miss World Beauty Contest in Bangalore in 1992.

With the passage of time, the team’s fame spread far and wide, including invitations to perform at the Centenary Celebrations of Mongolia and National Day of Seychelles. “It was an honour to represent the corps and India at such prestigious events...the audience was absolutely spellbound by our show. People would meet us on the streets to congratulate us and click pictures...we were treated like heroes,” recalls Subedar NK Tiwari, captain of the team.

The Shwet Ashw team comprises one officer who is in charge of the team, two Junior Commissioned Officers and 35 Other Rank personnel. It is led by Lt. Col. KC Monnappa, while Subedar NK Tiwari, a veteran of 23 years is the captain of the team. In fact, the success of Shwet Ashw over the years has inspired other units of the Indian Army like to the Army Service Corps and Signals to raise their own team, besides inspiring paramilitary forces like the BSF and ITBP to launch their versions of motorcycle display outfits. “We take a lot of pride in saying that Shwet Ashw was the trendsetter. Years of experience has enabled us to fine-tune the dynamics of the team to such an extent that it works almost in the auto-pilot mode. Every member of the team is aware of their roles and responsibilities and they work in close coordination,” points of Lt. Col. KC Monnappa, Officer-In-Charge (OIC) of the team.

Shwet Ashw is, probably, the busiest motorcycle display team. Apart from being a regular at the Army Day on January 15, it puts up 13 to 14 shows every year across the country. Of the many achievements of the CMP team over the years, the three Guinness World Records remain as their showpiece badges of honour. On September 22, 1995, they set a record of carrying 133 men on 11 motorcycles over a distance of 315 metres. Shwet Ashw broke its own record on October 15, 1999, by hauling 151 men astride 11 motorcycles over a distance of 215 metres. Then on October 30, 2010, the daredevils of the CMP Centre & School once again made headlines by carrying 40 men on a single 500 Royal Enfield Motorcycle, bettering the number set by the riders of the Brazilian Army. This world record stood for seven years before it was bettered by another Bengaluru-based team, ASC Tornadoes, in 2017. Unfortunately, the Guinness World Records have placed a moratorium on such record attempts for an indefinite period. It has left riders like Havaldar Sishpal, who is keen the break the ladder climbing of a moving motorcycle record set by the Border Security Force, disappointed. “We have written to the Guinness World Records a number of times expressing our desire to set a new benchmark, but they have not responded to our request. I am ready to set a new world record with just three days of preparation,” says Sishpal.

Even as the CMP team waits for the moratorium to be lifted, they sweat it out every day, to keep their riding skills sharp and their Royal Enfield motorcycles in top condition.