The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

So, it appears that the Punjabification of the Indian Army began apace in the 1870s. At that time the Russians were busy expanding their own empire. The British, having successfully quelled the rebellions of 1857 and decided that they were strong enough to suppress any new internal problems, turned their attention to the north-west frontier.

The Russians had begun their expansion into central Asia in the 1850s; by 1870, they were scarcely four hundred miles from the Punjab. British military policy became geared to keeping the Russians out of Afghanistan, or, failing that, extending British influence over it. This resulted in the disastrous second Afghan war, and showed up the deficiencies of the original native armies of India (and, of course, their incompetent British commanders).

Because most fighting by Indian troops from the mid-nineteenth century onwards was in north-west India, it was thought that troops recruited from amongst the local Kshatriya castes were best suited in those military spheres; further, recruits from the local peasantry were thought to be more impressionable and more easily commanded than the Bengalis and Tamils in the erstwhile Indian armies - higher caste folks with far too many opinions on the ways and means of the world than were good for them.

And, of course, the Sikhs looked martial in their bearing - tall, fair and sturdy on the parade ground. 1

The Commander-in-Chief at the time, Frederick Roberts averred: "no comparison can be made between the martial values of a regiment recruited amongst the Gurkhas of Nepal or the warlike races of northern India, and those recruited from the effeminate peoples of the south." 2

Between 1881 and 1893, the proportion of these martial races went up from 25% to 50% of the entire Indian infantry. Check out this table 3:

And these 3:

Of these, the overwhelming number were Punjabi Muslims and Sikhs.

With Partition, of course, the Punjabis split amongst the regiments of Pakistan and India. But the preponderance of the Punjabis continues to this day in the subcontinental armies.


1. Apurba Kundu, "The Indian Armed Forces' Sikh and Non-Sikh Officers' Opinions of Operation Blue Star", Pacific Affairs, Vol. 67, No. 1, 1994.
2. Field Marshal Lord Roberts of Kandahar, Forty-one Years in India: From Subaltern to COmmander-in-Chief, vol II, p. 442., 1897.
3. R. K. Mazumder, The Indian Army and the Making of Punjab, Orient Blackswan, 2003.


km said...

What we need is a correlation to gallons of sambar consumed since 1870s and voila, we have a socio-ethnic paper.

Fëanor said...

A regression of butter chicken against sambar? A cunning plan.

km said...

That sounds even better, actually.

And while we are at it, maybe we can have a control group who are fed both butter chicken and idli/sambar and a group that's served Mysore masala dosa - as a placebo.

All in the name of science, of course.

km said...

Also, by introducing a "placebo" into this study, I may have exposed myself as a huckster shilling for Big Pharma.

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