Background

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.

Disbandment

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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Comments (2)

  1. Gulshan Kumar Ajmani

Presently there is Mahar Regiment that constitutes of scheduled caste.

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  1. MG Singh    Gulshan Kumar Ajmani

Dear Gulshan, thank you very much for your comment, but I am afraid you are not correct. The mahar regiment was set up by the British and disbanded and revived in 1941. But after 1947 the regiment lost its class character and as of date is the...

Dear Gulshan, thank you very much for your comment, but I am afraid you are not correct. The mahar regiment was set up by the British and disbanded and revived in 1941. But after 1947 the regiment lost its class character and as of date is the only regiment that is composed of troops from all communities and regions and includes men from Bengal, Orissa and Gujarat. the mahar regiment lost its exclusive character in 1946 itself when it was renamed the Machine gun Regiment. Hence though the Mahar name was restored, but not the class character.

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