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Is Indian Army Secular?

Written by: Shilpa Bhadoria. - LL.M 2nd year, NALSAR, Hyderabad
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Indian army provides employment to more than 1 million people. There are no reservations for SC/ST’s in the Indian. Also here I shall point out the duty of Indian Government to protect the fundamental right of its citizens guaranteed under Art. 15 (4) of the constitution of India introduced by the first Constitutional Amendment Act of 1951. The Government claims Indian Army to be truly secular, but there are regiments like the Rajput regiment, Sikh regiment, Gorkha regiment, Naga, Jat, and Maratha etc. in the Army even today.

What is notable here is that all sections of society do not have special regiments, and only the so called fighter classes have special regiments in their name. These caste and sect based regiments create a feeling of pride in those members of the Army who are privileged and honored by having regiments in the name of their community or caste or sect, on the other hand a feeling of inferiority for those who do not belong to these castes and sects. The government should abolish the regional and caste based regimentation in the Army. The troups in these regiments are mandatorily from the same caste as the regiment example only rajputs can go into the Rajput Regiment, the Gorkhas into the Gorkha and so on, while the officers can be from any caste or sect. But the effect of such a classification is that the troups tend to have greater faithfulness towards the officers of their own sect and caste, which is obvious human behavior. The consequence is a divsion among the officers which is of dire consequence for the Army as an institution.

The officers from other communities are exposed to the risk of feeling secluded in these regiments as most of the other officers are from the same caste or sect as that of the regiment. Mostly the officers belonging to the same caste and sect opt to go for such caste based regiments, hence reducing the scope of option for those who do not belong to these privileged classes.

In July 1941 Dr. B.R Ambedhkar was appointed to the Defense Advisory Committee of the Viceroys executive council. He used this appointment to exert pressure within the military establishment for creation of a ‘Mahar regiment’. He also appealed to the Mahar’s to join the Army in large numbers in order to raise their self esteem and with the hope to bring them at par with others. But today this regiment does not belong only to the Mahar’s, it is composed of troups from all communities and regions of India. Mahar’s is a Scheduled Caste of Maharashtra. The irony is that the ill effect of having a caste and sect based regimentation is evident even with this regiment even though it was created with the object to higher the esteem of this backward class in the society the effect that is seen today is opposite, because the soldiers of Indian Army come from a society which is full of prejudices against the Dalits, it is unreasonable to expect them to be un touched by these inhibitions. Hence the result that can be apprehended is discrimination against the soldiers of the Mahar Regiment by those belonging to other regiments as they are considered inferior.

Its’ high time the Indian government looked into these matters and abolishes division of the Indian Army based on sect and caste which the Britishers had adopted for their own benefit because they felt that such regimentation shall give better out put as the people of the same caste and creed (All figther classes) shall be inspired to show valor in order to bring honour to their creed and community. This was sheer exploitation of the divisions (caste feeling) which had prevailed in India to their benefit.

On 9 March 2005, the PMO had issued the Notification for constitution of the High Level Committee for preparation of Report on the Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim Community in India. The committee submitted its report on 30th Nov. 2006 but the government has apparently forgotten about it and is sleeping over it. It has been alleged that the government had been prompted on this course by an article in Pacific Affairs in Winter 2001/02 titled.

Ethnic-based recruitment into the Indian Army:

The contrasting cases of Sikhs, Muslims, Gorkhas and others by an MIT-based researcher, Omar Khalidi. The scholar had - in his Khaki and Ethnic Violence in India - expressed his views on the under-representation of Muslims. He has marshalled his thesis to reveal that ‘The Indian Armed Forces’, as composed today, do not mirror the social diversity of the Indian population. This gap between the declared policy of the state to make the armed forces representative of the national demography and its actual implementation' deserves serious consideration by the government. The government made lots of hue and cry over the position of Muslims in the Indian Army without doing much about it and apparently forgot about mentioning this caste based segregation in the Army and making a similar hue and cry over it. The position of Dalits in this country has been worse than that of Muslims in the History. The Muslims faced oppression only after independence while the Dalits have suffered since time immemorial. The government rather than taking political mileage out of raising such issues should work for better position and representation of Dalits and other communities in the Army.

For years the Indian government found itself attacked from opposite directions with regard to the caste and regional groups' composition of the Army. Almost every debate in Lok Sabha over Defense Ministry budget presentations produces demands for and against the creation of new, homogeneous regiments. The government of India by reuniting Indian Army should set an example for the outside world that united we stand again. Unfortunately our leaders today are also exploiting the caste based divisions in our country for their political interests.

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