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Posted at: Apr 17, 2018, 2:13 AM; last updated: Apr 17, 2018, 2:13 AM (IST)

Army recruitment on caste basis during WWI: Veteran

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 16

During the World War I, the troops did not fight for India, but for Sikhs, Rajputs, Hodson's Horse…

This was stated by Lt Gen KJ Singh (retd), former Army Commander Western Command, in reply to a question that whether the Indian troops of World War I should be called as mercenaries or Indian soldiers. He was speaking at a panel discussion on ‘World War I: Role of Punjab’.

Sikh historian Ajay Pal Singh Brar said Punjabis fighting the WWI couldn’t be called monolithic. He said the maximum recruitments took place among Sikhs from Moga, among Muslims from Rawalpindi, among Dogras from Kangra and among Jats from Rohtak. “The caste system was strengthened by the Britishers as they recruited men to the Army caste-wise,” he said. He said, “People from cities did not participate. There was a difference in thinking between cities and rural areas.”

Speaking on the war fronts, military historian Mandeep Bajwa said it was the first experience of the Indian soldiers with industrialised armies. “They even faced attack of poisonous gas. Initially, the Indian troops took part in the hard-fought battles of Ypres, Neuve Chapelle, Loos and La Bassee, but later the infantry divisions were withdrawn to fight in Iraq in December 1915.”

Aam Aadmi Party leader and MLA Kharar Kanwar Sandhu, who was the moderator, said: “WWI led to the Indianisation of officers’ corps, widened recruitment base, made soldiers aware of their rights.”

Prof SS Sohal, Prof Anju Suri, chairperson of the Department of History, and Sahitya Akademi award winner Atamjit Singh also addressed the audience.


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