Castes in the army of modern India. Forgotten problem or hidden one?

We all know that Indian society has a unique feature: since ancient times it has been rigidly divided into social groups that have no analogues in other peoples, called castes. Does this division affect the passage of military service in the modern armed forces of the country, primarily on the prospects for an officer’s career? Information on this matter is contradictory.

We will not list for the hundred thousandth time the most complex hierarchy, consisting of four main classes (varnas), supplemented by the despicable class of untouchables. All of these groups are divided, in turn, into many “subclasses” and “podcast” in which you can get lost. Let us only recall that one of the two standing above all other castes, the kshatriyas, was at all times a military one. In the Middle Ages, when war was a professional affair, such a restriction may have worked. However, it is absolutely unrealistic to create modern armed forces from only “selected” hereditary warriors. Especially considering the fact that at the moment the Indian army has about one and a half million people in its ranks.

Recruitment for military service in the country is carried out exclusively on a voluntary basis; young men (and even girls) aged 18 to 25 are admitted there. At the same time, the proportion in recruitment is officially observed – approximately 10% of the number of potential male conscripts in each region. In reality, this is not entirely true. The thing is that since the time of British rule (specifically from the end of the 19th century) in the Indian army there has been a so-called “cool” principle of manning. And it is precisely “exists” and not “existed”! Introduced by the colonialists to deliberately separate representatives of various ethnic and religious groups into different parts, this principle has survived the times of India’s independence, and, judging by the available data, is still being applied by the country’s military leadership today.

No, at the official level, all such things are denied in the most decisive way. At one time, both the head of the personnel service of the Indian Armed Forces and numerous high-ranking staff officials have repeatedly stated that the army is a “secular and apolitical” organization, completely free from any racial, religious, and even more so caste prejudices. It was argued that the recruitment of representatives of all regions, social strata and religions “is carried out exclusively on a general basis,” as well as their further career advancement.

Many times at the highest levels the leadership of the country has spoken and said about caste division as such. It, in fact, was abolished at the level of the constitution back in 1950. The Constitution recognized castes as equal – all the way down to the untouchables. Discrimination of a person on this basis (including in the sphere of labor or service relations) is a criminal offense. In practice, there are certainly some changes: in 1997, a representative of the Dalits, that is, all the same untouchables, became the president of the country. They also occupied other important government posts. Also, according to official data, among the natives of this, the most despicable and oppressed caste in the past, there are at least 30 millionaires. And still…

“Social elevators” in India work for the lower classes, perhaps in the multi-million dollar metropolitan areas that erase almost all differences. In the outback, in the countryside, the caste system lives on to this day, and those who find themselves in its lower ranks have much less life opportunities and prospects. The simplest example is the literacy rate among the same Dalits barely reaches 30%, while on a national scale it is 75%. What kind of army (especially officer) career can we talk about? Indeed, when applying for service in India, having a certificate of at least secondary education is a strictly mandatory condition.

The Indian army, despite all the loud official statements made in the spirit of tolerance and political correctness, remains a closed conservative structure, living according to its age-old and rather archaic traditions. Recall that in order to resolve the issue of appointing women to the highest command positions in it, it took a decision of the Supreme Court, adopted literally this year. Official statistics on the racial, religious, and even more so caste composition of the Indian armed forces and their officer corps are absent as such. As explained in the military department, so that there is no “incitement to hatred.” According to unofficial data, at least 70% of the army is recruited according to the same principles that have existed for centuries. India has already seen the President of the untouchables. But he will hardly see a general or a colonel!

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