Beneath The Uniform

The casteist and racist origins of the Indian Army’s recruitment policies

01 March 2020
The President’s Bodyguard—an elite unit of the Indian Army—recruits from three castes: Rajputs, Hindu Jats and Sikh Jats. According to a petition being heard in the Supreme Court, these three castes are being given “preferential treatment” to the detriment of other citizens of the country.
in pictures ltd / corbis / getty images
The President’s Bodyguard—an elite unit of the Indian Army—recruits from three castes: Rajputs, Hindu Jats and Sikh Jats. According to a petition being heard in the Supreme Court, these three castes are being given “preferential treatment” to the detriment of other citizens of the country.
in pictures ltd / corbis / getty images

THE PRESIDENT’S BODYGUARD—a unit of the Indian Army—is considered one of the most prestigious postings within the armed forces. In 2018, one Gaurav Yadav from Haryana’s Revari district filed a public-interest litigation in the Delhi High Court, alleging that the recruitment policy of the President’s Bodyguard discriminated by caste. The unit, as Yadav correctly pointed out, only recruits from three castes—Rajputs, Hindu Jats and Sikh Jats. According to Yadav, these three castes are being given “preferential treatment” to the detriment of other citizens of the country. A bench of the Delhi High Court, hearing the petition, asked the defence ministry and several senior army officials to file their counter affidavits on the issue by 9 May 2019.

Both the army and the government have exceeded the deadline, and are yet to file their responses.

This is not the first time the army’s recruitment policy has been challenged in court. In 2012, IS Yadav, an Uttar Pradesh-based doctor, filed a petition in the Supreme Court, seeking an end to recruitment in the army on the basis of caste, region and religion.

“In the army alone there are caste, religion and region-based regiments such as the Jat Regiment, Sikh Regiment, Mahar Regiment, Gorkha Rifles, Garhwal Regiment, Dogra Regiment, etc,” Yadav’s petition said, “and hence recruitment to these regiments is primarily based on caste, region and religion.”

The petition also questioned the existence of two separate regiments for Sikhs—one for Jat Sikhs, and a different one for Mazhabi and Ramdasia Sikhs, who were formerly considered untouchables. The petitioner urged the court to end discrimination in recruitment to the army and to frame a new hiring policy for the force.

Sabyasachi Dasgupta is an assistant professor at the department of history at Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan.

Keywords: Indian Army caste
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