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Explained: To create division, the British had banned the recruitment of Muslims in the army, now neither caste nor reservation, nationalism is supreme.

New Delhi: Jawaharlal Nehru, as the Foreign Minister in the cabinet formed before independence, sent a letter to the Commander in Chief of the Indian Army and the Defense Secretary on September 12, 1946. In this, an appeal was made for comprehensive reforms in the Indian Army. Nehru said that these reforms were very important for an independent democratic country. Because people from Punjab and some states were being recruited more in the army. Before this, let us go to the period of 1857, when the bugle of rebellion was sounded across the country against the British rule. In this rebellion, Hindus and Muslims fought together in such large numbers that the British government sitting in London lost sleep. Recently, in a rally in the Lok Sabha elections 2024, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has created an uproar over the Modi government’s talk of two caste-based categories in the army, on which the BJP has complained to the Election Commission. Let us know today whether there is a caste based reservation system in the army? Before that, let us understand the caste based system in the British Raj’s army.

The thought of Muslims taking part in the rebellion was irritating.

Historian Dr. Danpal Singh tells that in the freedom struggle of 1857, along with Tatya Tope, Rani Lakshmibai, Begum Hazrat Mahal of Lucknow, Liaquat Ali of Allahabad, Azimullah Khan from Fatehpur, Maulvi Ahmedullah from Faizabad, Khan Bahadur from Bareilly and Delhi Muslim leaders like Bakht Khan, general of Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, also fought bravely against the British. This is what upset the British. He introduced the policy of ‘divide and rule’ for the Indian colony from 1857 onwards.

The British kept Muslims away from the army

According to historian Dr. SS Sen’s book ‘Eighteen Fifty Seven’, this rebellion started as a fight for religion, but by the end it turned into a freedom struggle. At the same time, another historian SB Chaudhary said that this rebellion was the first joint effort of several sections of people to challenge foreign power. According to Dr. Danpal Singh, the British started avoiding recruitment of Muslims in their British Army after 1857. He thought that if this would increase differences between Hindus and Muslims in the country, the British Raj would benefit more.

Caste based regiment in British Army

British officer James Outram had said about the rebellion of 1857 that it was a conspiracy by Muslims to take advantage of the troubles of Hindus. After the Revolt of 1857, the British government adopted a conservative policy towards Muslims and tried to marginalize them. The Jonathan Peel Commission was formed, whose job was to identify such social groups and areas from where reliable soldiers could be recruited for the British government. Since there were many rebellions in Eastern and Southern India, the British government avoided recruiting people from there into the army. At the same time, many recruitment centers in North India were changed.

Brahmin Infantry was created for the first time

In 1903, a caste-based battalion was formed for the first time, which was named Brahmin Infantry. This was the infantry of the First and Third Gaur Brahmins. This battalion was disbanded after the First World War. After this, ‘Chamar Regiment’ was also formed during the Second World War, which was abolished in December, 1946. A Lingayat battalion was also formed for the first time in 1941. This was an anti-tank regiment. This too was closed after some time.

Recruitment of North Indians in Marshal Class

The British government created a category for brave soldiers in the war – Martial Class. In this, North Indians are mainly recruited, because the British government considered the people of these areas to be better for the army. At the same time, Bengalis were recruited in the non-martial class, who were considered not capable of fighting. In fact, it was the Bengalis who spread the nationalist movements throughout India.

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Formation of caste and region based regiments

During the British rule, many types of regiments were formed based on caste and region. For example, regiments or rifles were formed in the names of Punjab, Madras, Maratha, Rajputana, Jat, Sikh, Dogra, Garhwal, Kumaon, Assam, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Naga, Gorkha, Ladakh, Arunachal, Sikkim. Some of these were abolished, while some continue even today.

There is no caste based system in Indian Army.

After independence, recruitment based on caste, religion or region was stopped in the Indian Army. Following Nehru’s advice on military reforms, the army started the process of recruitment in all parts of the country. In recruitment from soldiers to officers, recruitment was done neither on the basis of rich nor poor. Only qualified people started being recruited. The reason behind the continuation of some caste or region based regiments was that they were merely in name. Like in Rajput Regiment there are all three Rajputs, Gurjars and Muslims. At the same time, there are equal numbers of Rajputs and Jats in Rajputana Rifles.

There is no reservation in the army, it is only necessary to be fit.

According to Defense and Strategic Affairs Analyst Lieutenant Colonel (Retd) JS Sodhi, there is no recruitment in the Indian Army on the basis of caste or religion. Anyone can join the army, just he should be fit and have the passion to serve the country. There is no reservation in the army. If someone is being recruited in Uttar Pradesh or Karnataka, then whether the candidate is from the hills or the plains, or is a Muslim or a Sikh, anyone can participate in the recruitment. Any selection is based on merit. In this, neither soldiers are recruited for war on the basis of caste, religion or colour, nor are upper castes or particular religions given importance in the recruitment of military officers.

The demand for reservation in the army was also raised in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, SP had promised in its election manifesto that if its government is formed, a caste-based Ahir Infantry Regiment will be formed. At the same time, Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad had also demanded the reinstatement of the Chamar Regiment.

What did Rahul Gandhi say that created an uproar?

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had recently attacked PM Narendra Modi at an election rally in Rae Bareli over the Agniveer scheme of army recruitment. He had said that the Modi government has created two categories of soldiers – one includes sons of those who are poor, Dalit, tribal, backward, economically weaker section of the general category and minorities. Whereas the other includes the sons of the rich.

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Jaishankar said- Rahul insulted the army

Regarding this comment of Rahul, the BJP delegation including External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar met the Election Commission and lodged a complaint. Jaishankar said- Whatever Rahul said is a lie and our armed forces have been targeted. Rahul wants to demoralize the armed forces. Army is not a subject of elections. This is a matter of national security.

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