Protests Demanding ‘Ahir Regiment’ In Indian Army
Member of the Ahir Community have been sitting on an indefinite protest near Kherki Daula toll Plaza in Gurgaon since February 4, demanding the formation of an Ahir regiment in the Indian Army. The same day, at least 400 protesters had taken out a rallhy leading to traffic congestion near toll plaza and camped at the site.
The demand of the Ahir Regiment is not new one. The people of South Haryana, popularly known as the Ahirwal region, have long been demanding for a separate regiment within the Indian Army. The protestors have been demanding a separate regiment for Ahirs along similar lines since the community had a large representation in the Indian Army. The protesters contend that the Indian Army had several caste-based regiments and since Ahirs had a large representation in the Army, they want a separate regiment for Ahirs along similar lines.
The Ahirs claims that the community has given sacrifices in all the wars and they have won several gallantry awards. In the battle of Rezang La in 1962, out of 120 casualties, 114 were Ahirs. It is unfortunate that Ahirs have not got the recognition like other communities. The recruitment to President’s Bodyguard (PBG) is openonly for Rajputs, Jats, and Sikh regiments. Just like there is a separate caste-based regiment for Sikhs, Gorkhas, Jaats, Garhwals, Rajput, we demand formation of Ahir regiment in the army.
Caste-based regiments in the Indian Army came into being during the British era and was further expanded upon after the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny. The Jonathan Peel Commission was tasked to identify social groups and regions to recruit loyal soldiers. Since the revolt was from eastern and southern parts of India, the British government didn't recruit them in the Army and changed the centre of recruitment to northern India. However, independent India continued the caste and region-based regiments due to their history and ethos. As of today, the Indian Army has caste-based regiments — the Jat, Sikh, Rajput, Dogra, Mahar, JAK Rifles, Sikh Light Infantry. However, it is incorrect to say that the Indian Army is based on caste. Even in the specific regiments, it is important to note that only personnel from other ranks are recruited on a laid down structure but officers are not. The Army has defended this practice.
In the case of the Ahir Regiment, the demand hasn’t been met as the authorities contend that Ahirs are already present in the Army in good numbers and they have fought some of the most glorious battles for the Army. Ahirs are already eligible for recruitment in multiple Indian Army regiments. Also, the community has served within these regiments for over two centuries. The Ahirs, who largely self-recognise as Yadavs, can serve in Kumaon, J&K Rifles, Punjab, Rajputana, and Jat Regiments depending on the region they come from. The Ahirs are very much a part of the mainstream and the creation of an Ahir Regiment would serve no wider political purpose.
The issue of Ahir regiment, particularly in Ahirwal region, is an emotive issue. The protests being organised under the banner of ‘Sanyukt Ahir Regiment Morcha’ is likely to gain clamour in the lead up to the next assembly polls in Haryana. This community has a sizeable presence in the Ahirwal region – Gurgaon, Rewari and Mahendragarh belt. Ahir population is significantly higher in UP and Bihar as compared to Haryana. Parties are banking on emotive factor by invoking caste. The demand for the Ahir Regiment has been supported by several politicians and political leaders across parties. Earlier in 2018, the ‘Sanyukt Ahir Regiment Morcha’ held similar protests and went on a hunger strike for nine days. The ‘Sanyukt Ahir Regiment Morcha’, however, ended the protests then after receiving assurance from the politicians in this regard. The members of the 'Sanyukt Ahir Regiment Morcha' have now been sitting on an indefinite protest near Kherki Daula toll plaza in Gurgaon since 4 February. Only time will tell whether the wind blows or subsides.