Military & Aerospace

British ‘Divide and Rule’ Policy and The Indian Armed Forces
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“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” —Toni Morrison

Present Oraganisation of Indian Armed Forces

While serving in the Indian armed forces, I observed certain anomalies, weaknesses, drawbacks and practices in the of organisation, administration, philosophy and management, which are often an hindrance in smooth functioning. Everybody feels, and talks privately about such issues but when it comes to taking up matter with the concerned authorities, writing about or taking action against such shortcomings, one hesitates and leaves it to be sorted out by somebody else. The commanding officer, a hard pressed person who has a fixed tenure of two, maximum three years completes this tenure and moves out. Senior commanders do not stay more than eight to nine months in their command appointments are just bothered for their next rank and postings and do not want to see the reasons behind such issues or anomalies at all, unless they are forced by the circumstances.

One finds enough of writings on the tactics, deployments, operations and manoeuvres, but nobody wants to touch these sensitive issues which are very important for day to day functioning and improving man management in the armed forces. For bringing out such issues, one often fears that he may be seen as an obstructionist and pessimist. But there is requirement of addressing such anomalies and deficiencies regarding organisation, administration, and pruning of the unwanted element etc. at the appropriate level. Such efforts will pay in the long run. To be a status quoits, cautious, conservative and risk averse is curse. Time and scientific advancement demand changes. Serving officers do not pick up courage to bring out such issues and say that everything is alright. Certain veterans do it but they are no force to reckon with, for getting those issues properly addressed, for obvious reasons.

I belong to the rural setup of the country, where the main occupation of the people is to serve in the police, central armed police forces and military. I have got my relations in almost all ranks including below officers rank. I am not against any rank or appointment and it should not be construed as such. It is a question of noticing and reflecting upon the uncommon, and unnecessary issues and removing the same, may be at the level of jawans, Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) or officers. The civil government is supreme but the problems being faced by the armed forces are not very clearly known and understood by them. The bureaucracy in between, would neither like to touch these nor they are bothered about any such things, because those do not affect them. It is therefore, the duty of the senior military commanders to project the anomalies and routine demands for innovations and get them addressed in time. Unfortunately the whole civil society is grossly busy for political placings and social settlements and one cannot expect any politician to sort out the problems of the military, if any and that too, in absence of reasonable hankering after by military men.

Armed Forces as an Institution

The Indian armed forces is one of the most important institutions of the Government of India. It is responsible to play its constructive and cohesive role in the process of uniting and advancement of the country. We are a free and democratic country and always have to keep in mind that the national integrity, fraternity, liberty, equality and secularism are preserved at all costs. And the interest of the defence services too, will be best served by incorporating those values in our system of administrative management.

It is also a fact that our history has been falsified and facts distorted by the foreigners, particularly the western and specially by British writers. We are constantly fed that India’s racial composition, has been a knotty problem comprising of different people of Mongol, Negilot, Aryan and Dravidian origins, willfully targetting our civilisation. Unluckily, rise of new Sects, coupled with the highhandedness of invaders and some influential western preachers like Portuguese and British who were hell bent for spreading of the Christianity had been adding to our woes. What really concerns the nationalists is that inspite of the application of scientific temper to the question of history, some historians are refusing to update and review the material, that has gone into the making and falsifying of our history.

Aryan – Dravidian race theory has been demolished in the recent researches in genetics based on Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) tests. It has been established that most Indians have got the same DNA profile irrespective of caste, religion or region, though geographical location, weather and environment have always played the part with everybody and that way we are not, the only one to be affected. Yet our text books are gleefully talking about our being a multiethnic rather multi-class society. The best to serve our interests, will be to narrow down the diversity calculus regularly, says Partap Bhanu Mehta President Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi. This is one of the failed transitions as far as our government in concerned. Our political dispensation has not responded adequately. As a matter of fact political culture which does not follow any law of morality is the carrier of grand identity, diversity and politics of division.

Fields Requiring Changes

Indian armed forces are a unique organisation, which has a most critical role to play in safeguarding the integrity of the nation and should have their fundamentals very clear on the subject. These cannot be vague/unconcerned to understand the effects of the pitfalls and putting in place the right types of organisational and managerial/administrative changes at the right time for which cravings have been going on since long. A slow but gradual process of overcoming all the ills is thus an important imperative. The fields which require attention of the concerned military and civil government and political leadership with regards to armed forces are:-

Representation: All the able-bodied persons from all communities, regions, religions and sects do not get the chance to join the armed forces. Agreed, certain communities are engaged in trade and other professions and are not forthcoming for the recruitment in the armed forces but those who are willing, too, are finding it difficult in view of the pressure exerted by groups of dominant communities. The down trodden communities who face difficulties in making their both ends meet will make good soldiers as hardship, poverty and want are said to be the best schools of soldiering

Religiosity and Duty: The present form of organised religious preaching in the units was started by the British after the Great Mutiny with an aim to create divisions among the Indian troops. That should not be the aim of our government in respect of our own armed forces. Very heavy dose of religious preaching, develops a sense of groupism, bordering separateness which is against the very cohesiveness of the military machine. The real religion of a soldier is to do his duty most faithfully and sincerely. Radicalisation, like in Pakistan will defeat the very purpose of developing a classless society. In fact the religious practices adopted by the diehard zealots go against the theory of harmonisation in armed forces. A dutiful soldier hardly needs the support of religious crèches to stand on, because basics of all religion are the same.

Class Based Composition: Most of our infantry regiments have been organised on pure class composition. It is matter of interest and knowledge that even during the British regime till August, 1947, there were hardly any pure class unit/regiment of infantry. Though the name could be there, say, Jat Regiment but other communities were always present there in them. Same was the case with Rajput Regiment and Dogra Regiment etc. The Sikh Regiment incidentally had one-third of the Muslims troops almost throughout. It was only in 1947 when the pure regiments got formed, because the Hindus and Sikhs coming from various regiments, which went to Pakistan were taken in class based regiments. The Jats came to Jat regiment, Sikh came the Sikh regiment and Rajputs came to Rajput regiment and thus the die was cast for pure regiments. Nobody planned for it or otherwise. Politicians, when they came to know about such arrangements, got concerned. Even Prime Minister Nehru lamented on learning about it and commented saying, it was mistake to organise units on class basis but this mistake was not corrected.

Misusing Class Relationship: Narrow class considerations often prevail in pure regiments. Small minds get enthused with ideas of class consciousness and indulge in activities not conducive to the matters military. Stray remarks by an individual of the other class, in such units has often been a cause of serious conflicts. A number of good officers, have lost their brilliant career due to these trivialities. A sound and foolproof arrangement will help achieving the desired aim. Armed forces cannot afford to be negligent about such serious misadventures.

Officers of the Same Class: The officers belonging to the class as that of troops have at times been a cause of couple of problems and in certain cases have exploited the sentiments of the troops, by planting them against the officers of the other classes. It is a practical problem and needs extermination of such virusoids. Not to be swayed by false regimentation, one is required to study the problem in the right perspective for betterment of the organisation.

Conduct of Operations vis-à-vis Maintaining JCOs Rank: The battle, infact all military operations are led by young officers with good team of NCOs as a base. The life span of active soldiering cannot be more than forty years of age. The utility of the JCO rank require re-examination, ab initio, in view of their higher age group, power of the commanding officer to deal with them disciplinarily, and the burden on the national exchequer vis-à-vis the utility of the rank, particularly of infantry and armoured corps regiments and other arms, where all operations have to be led by officers. About seven-eight officers carrying whole load of work in a unit and about forty JCOs doing nothing much for leading the operations, warrant serious discussions on maintaining of such a rank.

Cases of Insubordination: Mutinies and cases of insubordination take place more in the pure units or pure subunits of armoured corps, engineers and artillery regiments etc. and almost nil in the mixed regiments. The reasons for such disobediences are the handiworks of those who sensationalise the issues and exploit the troops in pure regiments. A committee of senior commanders must go into this and find out the real reasons for such incidents and take appropriate action for eliminating the cause. It is a very important issue and giving it a short shrift is not in the interest of army as well as nation.

Falsification of Historical Accounts

The British on their maiden sojourn to India were surprised to find such civilised and orderly people, who were rational and tolerant, and had profound idea of equality leading a materially healthy community life with shared identity. British on the other hand, proved to be cruel, savage, depredators, materialists and preponderating by nature. Their philosophy revolved around material possessions and not on truth and tenets of humanism.

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The historical accounts written by them are downright lies and polluted and need to be rewritten bringing out the truth. Very important factor which contributed to their being able to score regularly in their operations against various rulers was that unfortunately all indigenous rulers used to live in a style to which even Queen Victoria herself was hardly accustomed. The greatest of them maintaining a prosperous state unparelled, perhaps since the days of excesses of the later Roman Emperors. They all led most luxurious life, had harems and outshone each other, at the cost of all their subjects, who had no say, at all, whatsoever. They believed that divine blessing had showered on them and the public were their ordained slaves. That made all the difference for bringing all the bad luck for the country. It is brought out here to see as to how these people played into the hands of British who were successful for enslaving us. They were all disorderly block heads, who never thought of anything else except their own comforts, pleasures and possessions. British intellectually subdued India by dismantling the education system. English was introduced with rampant force. As a result, they were the only one who could write; Indians could not write anything on governmental matters. British wrote and published what they wanted.

The British completely distorted all the accounts of the operations fought, be it by Siraj-ud-Daulah, Tipu Sultan, Marathas, Mutineers or Indian troops in World Wars or the Anglo-Sikh Wars. These are however separately discussed in details in other chapters. The issues detailed above made me to indulge in this hobby horse of writing this book. Being a student of military history, I felt that all these issues be analysed afresh and understood in correct perspective. To my mind corrective measures will help this splendid organisation to grow and develop further.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Col (Dr) Sube Singh Ahlawat

Lt Col (Dr) Sube Singh Ahlawat, author of the book An Infantry Battalion in Combat.

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