The Chamar Regiment of the Indian Army: Raising and Disbandment
The British Raj lasted for close to 200 years. During this period the British laid the foundation of the present Indian army. However the British laid down a selective recruitment policy. Their policy embraced two major concepts.
a) The British by virtue of their experience in India enunciated the concept of martial and non-martial races. They considered the Sikhs, Jats, Rajputs, Punjabi's, Gurkha, Maharatta etc as martial races and only recruited from them for the British Indian army.
b) The British maintained caste and class based regiments. Thus the Indian army had Sikh regiments, Rajput regiments etc. This militated against the Principles of War, but in actual battle conditions these caste based regiments were very successful. Many regiments covered themselves glory.
World War II
The British were happy with the force level of the Indian army which was about 450,000. This army served the British cause and also helped fight oversea wars for the British from China to Tibet. The army also helped to maintain law and order in India.
The advent of Hitler and his starting the Second World War with Japan as his ally shook the British. As the Japanese over ran SE Asia in 1942-43 the inadequacy of the British Indian army was exposed. A decision by the Imperial government in London headed by Winston Churchill was taken to augment the force level of the Indian army. It was planned to raise its strength to 2.5 million.
The Raising of the Chamar Regiment
A committee appointed by the British Indian army recommended the inclusion of Chamars in the Indian army. The Chamars are lower caste Hindus and are mostly cobblers. However they had a history of fighting as soldiers in Central India against the Japanese. A decision was taken to raise a regiment of Chamars. However the British retained the caste character of the army and also kept in mind the martial traditions while recruiting.
The Chamar regiment was raised towards the end of 1943 and was thrown into battle against the Japanese Imperial army. It formed part of 168 Division of the Indian army and was commanded by Brigadier Dyer.
The Regiment fought very well and pushed the Japanese back along with other Indian forces out of Burma. Rangoon was captured and no mean part was played by the Chamar Regiment. Many distinguished officers like General Ayub Khan served in the Chamar regiment.
Disbandment if the Chamar Regiment
In 1945 the Second World War came to an end after the dropping of the Atomic bombs on Japan. Suddenly a force of 2.5 million became a luxury and an emaciated England could ill afford such a large army. It was decided to restore the Indian army to pre- war force levels.
Mass scale demobilization was ordered and the newly raised regiments faced the first axe. The British retained the old Sikh, Gurkha and Jat regiments and demobilized all others. Almost 2 million soldiers were sent home. The Chamar Regiment was also disbanded in 1945 end and it ceased to exist except in the history books.
After Independence with the force level of the Indian army again rose to 1.22 million a demand is made by many political leaders to re induct the Chamar regiment. Backward class leaders are particularly vociferous in this demand. It remains to be seen whether the Indian army will acquiescence to this demand