The Chamar Regiment: The Only Scheduled Caste regiment of Indian Army: Raising and Disbandment
The Indian army , earlier known as the British Indian army has a checkered history of over 200 years. The East India Company the fore runner of the Raj, established the British Indian army by recruiting local Indians. However the British recruited only the so called martial races and ipso facto created a caste based army. Thus the Sikhs, Gorkhas, Rajputs, Dogras, Mahrattas, Punjabi Muslims were recruited to the army. The British only recruited martial clans, who they in their perception felt were good fighters. They based this selection on their experience of fighting wars in India. Pride of place in this army was given to the Sikhs and the Gurkhas. No scheduled caste was recruited in this army.
The Second World War and Change in Thinking
The Second World War greatly taxed the Empire. Fighting Hitler and the Japanese put a great strain on the British Indian Army. Despite nearly 2 million men under arms , the British needed more soldiers. GHQ and the then Viceroy General Lord Auchinleck decided to incorporate a scheduled caste regiment to augment the manpower of the army. They zeroed down on the Chamars( Cobblers) who had some record of military battles, earlier in their history. In 1943 the go ahead was given for creating the Chamar regiment. Many distinguished soldiers like Ayub Khan( later general and President of Pakistan) and General Brar were part of this regiment. The regiment was thrown into battle by end 1943. It faced the Imperial army and had a fiery baptism in the Burma Campaign
The Chamar regiment in WW II
The Chamar regiment distinguished itself in the field of battle. It was part of the force that lifted the siege of Imphal and advanced against the Imperial army by liberating Burma along with other units of the army. They also took part in the assault on Rangoon and cleared the city of Japanese troops.
By mid 1945 the Chamar regiment had helped free entire Burma from Japanese occupation. The dropping of the Atomic bombs on Japan , brought about the surrender of Japan. The Indian army accepted the surrender of Japanese troops in SE Asia.
At the end of the war the British Indian army had nearly 2.6 million men under arms. With the English economy shattered, it was decided to downsize the army to its pre-war strength of about 500,000. many regiments were marked for disbandment and one of these was the Chamar Regiment. This regiment was demobilized by middle of 1946. Many of the Chamar soldiers wanted to continue with the British Indian army, but they had to go home.
With Independence looming on the horizon,the Indian political leadership led by Nehru and the Indian complement of officers did not also favor the continuance of a scheduled caste regiment. They wished only to carry on with the martial classes. Thus the martial class regiments were retained and the Chamar regiment disbanded. Now the Chamar regiment no longer exists except as a foot note in history of World war II.
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