March 24, 2022
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we debate whether new caste-based regiments need to be created in the Indian Army. We also look at the Andhra Pradesh government’s admission in using spyware to keep tabs on anti-social elements in the state, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Demand for Ahir Regiment in the Indian Army
India’s diversity of languages, ethnicities, cultures, customs, etc. is often lauded as one of its defining characteristics. However, with a population of over a billion, there can also be a million contradictions. India’s diversity can make things a little messy, even violent.
As people from different castes continue to struggle to gain their footing in everyday life, the Ahir community from Haryana is no different. They’re demanding a separate regiment in the Indian Army, with protests and marches planned. Is such a policy necessary? Should candidates be chosen and segregated based on caste? Or is there historical precedence?
The Ahir (or Aheer) community has members who mostly identify as the Indian Yadav community. Their traditional occupations are cattle-herding and agriculture. They’re mainly prominent in Northern India. For example, in Gujarat, they’re known as Ayar or Konar. In Haryana, Ahirs of the same gotra as Rao Tula Ram used Rao as the surname. The Ahirs have more than 20 sub-castes.
Under colonial rule, the British classified the Ahirs of Punjab as an agricultural tribe in the 1920s. In 1898, the British raised four Ahir companies. Two of these were included in the 95th Russell’s Infantry. Since the 1920’s Ahirs started to adopt the name of Yadav and created the Yadav Mahasabha.
In the aftermath of the 1857 Sepoy mutiny, the British government undertook caste and region-based recruitments in the Indian Army. The aim was to divide it into martial and non-martial races. The Jonathan Peel Commission was tasked with identifying social groups from various regions for recruitment. Eastern and Southern India were ignored since the revolt originated there. There was a preference for North Indians.
In 1903, the 1st and 3rd (Gaur) Brahman Infantry was formed but disbanded after World War I. During World War II, the Chamar regiment was formed and then disbanded in 1946. Following independence, caste and region-based recruitment continued as the government felt it would be in keeping with Indian history and ethos.
In 2018, the All India Yadav Mahasabha (AIYM) sent 20 lakh postcards to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding the formation of a separate ‘Yadav Regiment’ in the Indian Army. Its Secretary-General Satya Prakash Yadav said jawans from the community have given their lives in battles against China, at Kargil, and in the Parliament attacks.
Now, the Ahir community from southern Haryana, through the ‘Sanyukt Ahir Regiment Morcha’, wants there to be an Ahir regiment in the Indian Army. In 2018, they went on a hunger strike. After receiving assurances from politicians, they ended their strike nine days after it began.
VIEW: Historical precedence and representation
The history of the Indian Army and caste is well documented. Caste-based recruitment isn’t new or revolutionary. The Indian Army has employed members of the Ahir community for decades but hasn’t recognised them with a separate regiment. The Army has other community and region-based regiments – Punjab Regiment, Madras Regiment, Jat Regiment, and the Rajput Regiment, to name a few. The President’s Bodyguard recruits based on caste as well.
They’ve served the country with honour and often paid the ultimate sacrifice. In the 1962 war with China, one brave soldier was Nand Kishore from the Dhawana village in present-day Rewari district, a part of the Ahirwal region in Haryana. In a tribute to him, Col Dilbag Dabas (Retd) mentioned that since there is no separate Ahir regiment as Ahirs are absorbed in the Kumaon Infantry Regiment. During this war, at the battle of Rezang La, 114 of the 120 who died were Ahirs. One of the soldiers involved in this war, Honorary Captain Ramchander Yadav, also called for an Ahir battalion.
The demand for a designated regiment has also received relatively widespread political support. Union Minister of State Rao Inderjit Singh has recently come out in support of the Ahirs as he met with protestors at the Kherki Dhaula Toll Plaza on the Delhi-Gurugram Expressway. Congress MP Deepender Hooda also met with them and said it’s time to give them their due recognition.
COUNTERVIEW: Wrong approach and not all caste-based
While it’s true that the Indian Army has had community and region-based recruitment in the past, not all regiments in the Indian Army are based on caste. For example, the Rajputana Rifles have an equal number of Rajputs and Jats. Similarly, the Rajput Regiment has Rajputs, Gurjars, and Muslims. It should also be mentioned that the support and technical arms of the Army aren’t caste-based.
In the Delhi High Court, the Indian Army stated that recruitment for the President’s Bodyguard based on existing policy was legitimate. It has members only from the Jats, Rajputs, and Jat Sikhs. It cited clean chits from committees examining the recruitment policy since 1947. In 2013, the Army rejected calls for forming new regiments based on caste or religion. Part of the reasoning is to keep the Indian Army apolitical, inclusive, and secular and not favour one particular community. It even opposed the religious headcount recommended by the Sachar committee in 2005.
The Army has generally been immune to socio-political forces like reservations. Part of this is due to the Indian Army setting out stringent recruitment criteria. However, this hasn’t lasted long. The caste-based policy is one devised by the British. Also, creating a separate regiment would not increase combat effectiveness. It would merely be decorative. The elite forces of the Indian Army hire on caste and region agnostic lines. The Ahirs are already eligible for recruitment to multiple Army regiments. Politicians voicing their support could be nothing more than a cynical political ploy.
What’s your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) The Ahir community’s demand for a separate regiment in the Indian Army is valid.
b) The Ahir community’s demand for a separate regiment in the Indian Army is not valid.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Digital India dream and arbitrary internet shutdowns can’t go together. Just see the loss
For the Left:
Modi’s India is in a foreign policy sweet spot by playing all sides — US, China, EU, Russia
🏴 STATE OF THE STATES
Setting up colleges (Assam) – CM Himanta Biswa Sarma has announced that the state government is planning to set up at least one college in every minority-dominated region in the state. He further added that the same push will be given to areas dominated by tribal groups and tea tribes. According to the CM, the government’s aim is to establish general education in the areas instead of “madrassa education”.
Why it matters: Madrassa, in Arabic, means “educational institution”. And madrassa education tends to focus on traditional education based on patterns that have been around for centuries. According to some, the system doesn’t allow for new research and scientific updates. It forms the nucleus of the educational lives of Muslims. Right now, there are supposed to be more than 700 recognised madrassas in Assam.
Unification of municipal corps (Delhi) – The Union Cabinet has officially cleared the Delhi Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Act, 2022. The bill was proposed to unify the three municipal corporations of Delhi, and is now expected to be tabled in Parliament sometime this week. According to sources in the government, the corporation was divided in uneven terms, and the unification will help deal with the crisis in resources.
Why it matters: Delhi’s municipality was first divided in 2011. The three corporations are the South Delhi Municipal Corporation, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, and the East Delhi Municipal Corporation. Considering this division, the corporations started facing serious financial problems as resources were divided unevenly. This move will give the Centre almost equal powers over the Capital as the Delhi government.
Mid-day meals are back (Odisha) – After 2 whole years, the School and Mass Education department of the state has agreed to restart the mid-day meal programme in schools from next month. It asked school management and central kitchen agencies to prepare for this move. This includes making sure they have the facilities to cook the meals and conduct edibility tests for the scheme’s left-over groceries.
Why it matters: Across the country, the mid-day meal scheme provided meals for students from Classes 1 to 8 in government schools. This covers around 11.80 crore children in 11.20 lakh government and government-aided schools. According to teachers, the scheme has also prompted a significant uptick in attendance and enrollment in schools, especially in rural areas. Bringing it back is sure to better India’s nutrition levels as well.
Raised incomes of farmers (Gujarat) – According to the state government, the Narmada project has helped more than double farmers’ incomes in Gujarat. The current administration said that the 60,000 km canal network built has also led to an increase in irrigation potential of another 17.92 hectares of the state. It also said that only 6% of the project was left to complete.
Why it matters: The Narmada Valley Project (NVP) includes 30 major dams, 136 medium ones and another 3,000 minor dams in India. Till now, the biggest contributions of the NVP is the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) in Gujarat and the Narmada Sagar Project (NSP) in Madhya Pradesh. According to environmentalists and activists, the studies done to support the NVP are all inadequate and further actions are needed to rectify damages.
The use of spyware (Andhra Pradesh) – The ruling YSR Congress has revealed that they have been using spyware to keep tabs on anti-social elements in the state. As YSRC MLA and spokesman G Amarnath said, the spyware is used only for state security purposes, and not for any political ones. Every state uses this to maintain public order and safety. Anything else would go against set regulations.
Why it matters: During the West Bengal Assembly session, CM Mamata Banerjee said that the governments of West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh were offered the Pegasus spyware. While she said that her government had refused, the current Andhra administration passed a resolution to investigate whether the previous TDP government had bought it or not. TDP leaders claim that CM Banerjee may have been misinformed.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
257 – On Tuesday, the Lok Sabha was informed that 257 police stations across India don’t have vehicles of any kind. Along with this, a whopping 638 stations don’t have any telephone connections.