--classstrugggle-flipmag CS Dec-2018 MKP - Page 9

place in 1764. It was a turbulent year. According to Sir John Kaye one battalion even imprisoned its British Officers. This was the period of the Sannyasi-Fakir rebellion in Bengal. The mutiny at Vellore in July 1806 has a clearly anti British edge. The rebel soldiers were personally encouraged by the third son of Tipu Sultan, and hoisted Tipu’s flag on the palace. Some 40 rebellions soldiers were killed by the British. In 1824, the 47 th Regiment at Barrackpore refused overseas service at the time of the British invasion of Burma. They were brought out on parade and literally mowed down by artillery fire. With the expansion of the British Empire in India, more and more troops were needed for garrison duties, away from home and without active service allowance. From 1835 onwards, after the annexation of Sindh, there was a series of revolts, extending over wider and wider areas, and drawing in ever increasing numbers. In 1843 and 1844, at least five infantry, regiments, two cavalry regiments, and some artillery units refused garrison duties. The next two years there were reports of conspiracies which failed to materialize into action. Again during 1849 and 1850 there was the same problem of garrison duty in the newly acquired territory of Punjab. One regiment even went on a pay strike at Rawalpindi. Another significant development in 1850 was the introduction of a Gurkha regiment to replace the rebellions 66 th Regiment. Once again in 1856, the Bengal Army and the Madras Army refused to go on overseas service to Burma. The soldiers claimed overseas service was not part of their contract. In response to this stand, Lord Canning introduced a new rule on 25 July 1856, incorporating obligation “for general service in or outside India”. December - 2018 In each of these rebellious acts by the Indian soldiers in the 100 years between the Battle of Plassey and the great uprising of 1857, there was evidence of close collaboration with civilians. Thus 1857 was really the culmination of a series of peasant struggles and revolts in the Indian armed forces. The links between the two movements were not always direct. There is no doubt, however, that each influenced the other, however indirectly. There is also evidence to show that many of the disbanded soldiers joined the different peasant struggles and provided them with the necessary military leadership. Most of those revolts and struggles were the outcome of their own immediate experiences. Ultimately, however, they found themselves facing the British might. Thus they inevitably took the form of a struggle for freedom against foreign rulers. The lesson that Marx drew from the revolt of 1857, was not lost on the British either. The first war of independence was ruthlessly crushed. India passed under the direct rule of the Crown. The sepoy army was reorganized. The theory of martial races was evolved. The idea was to keep out of the armed forces those who had already developed to some extent intellectually. At the regimental training centres the soldiers were motivated through the develop- ment of their racial or religious pride. The newly organized regiments were given racial and religious names – Punjab Regiment, Rajputans Rifles, Kumaon Regiment, Sikh Light Infantry and so on. Their regimental histories were histories of battles fought for the expansion of the British Empire. These were the traditions included in the soldiers as part of their training. The government took well considered steps to keep the armed forces isolated from the people. Soldiers’ families received special treatment with regard to housing and food. Land was given to retired soldiers to create vested interests; Special schools were set up for soldiers’ sons. They got special preference at the time of recruitment. Some joined the same regiment as their father’s. They became the rural elites. The officers’ cadre, when Indian officers began to be recruited, came from the feudal aristocracy. The elitist attitude was carefully nurtured at all levels. The soldiers learnt to look upon the civilian population with contempt. This was the process of converting soldiers into ‘police- men”. This was the only way to let them loose against unarmed people fighting for the country’s freedom. One of the important tasks of the Indian armed forces was assistance to civil authorities in the maintenance of law and order. The other tasks were the defence of the borders of Britain’s Indian Empire and serving as auxiliary forces in Britain’s imperialist wars in different parts of Asia and Africa. These roles they fulfilled, in the main admirably, even winning royal recognition, much as the Royal Garhwal Rifles. The units were so organized as to prevent any united action by the Indian soldiers. An infantry brigade, for instance consisted of British, Gorkha and an Indian battalion. Certain units were further divided on communal and caste lines. The Sikh Regiment had, for instance, a Mahar battalion. Another might be composed of 50% Punjabi, Muslims and UP Hindus. Then there was a class of Indian officers, known as Viceroy’s Commissioned Officers, as distinct from the Sandhurst trained, King’s Commissioned Officers. The VCOS formed the backbone of the unit administration. With caste and community divisions, one section or the other felt that the VCO 9