What does it take to be in Army? Apart from physical and mental fitness, there is a core value that binds all men in green! The sole aim to serve their homeland; fight for her respect and dignity. This unity in ideas is what makes Army a unique institution. What if the unity we see is only skin deep? What if caste and regionalism raise its ugly head in this perfect world too?
Today Army is afflicted with many problems like dearth of officers, lack of latest equipments and technology upgradation as well as the most feared corrupt officials ‘here and there’. What is still a hidden problem is differentiation of troops by region and caste. The magnitude of the problem is small but it reminds me of the phrase; ‘Elephant passed through the needle but the tail still remained!’ Here the tail of the elephant includes two regiments; Sikhs and Marathas. They still seem to be living in typical manu’s society. SIKH Regiment is purely Jat Sikhs (Jats being the upper caste) whereas SIKHLI is the fusion of all Majhabi sikhs (lower castes of the Sikh community). As a matter of fact, when Sikh religion was born, it had no place for any concept of caste. The very first five men, “Panj Pyaare’ who were decorated as Sikhs belonged to lower caste of Hindus. There was no discrimination against them and they were considered the pious ones!
Coming to the second one, MARATHA LI Regiment, which is considered to be a pure regiment consists of all upper caste Marathas, whereas MAHAR is a regiment of all lower castes! Here again what seems important to notice is that Mahar is the name of the lowest of castes in Maharashtra who have the history of being ‘wronged’ against.
The recruitment of soldiers (not officers) is done according to their caste in these two regiments. I wonder why this discrimination only in these two regiments when the whole of India suffers from the grunt of Castism? As we hand over the reins of the country to our young well educated officers, we can never imagine that they would be differentiated in such a menial way! Then why our soldiers? It may be the fact that when Army was constituted, Britishers allowed the ‘problem of caste’ to continue into the system. but today, if Army insticates the differences due to caste in minds of soldiers, it may be dangerous for the strength of the institution.
The concept of regionalism in Army can still be understood as the warriors from different regions came together to form the great institution. But I still seek the answer to why a difference due to caste exists in a secular arm of the Defence forces even up to this day? Is there anyone to offer that logic to me? Or the answer still remains as hidden as why educated humans still believe in dehumanising caste traditions?