The Chamar Regiment and the Case for its Revival
The Chamar’s are classified as a backward community. They constitute about 50 million Indians and have a history of being warlike. Basically Chamar’s are cobblers and belong to the lower castes. The Indian army, in particular the Infantry battalions are mostly caste based. Thus we have the Sikh, Jat, Gurkha, Rajput, Dogra, Maratha, Mahar and Punjab regiments. All the regiments are from the higher castes except the Sikh Light Infantry regiments which are the scheduled caste Sikhs often referred to as Mazhabi Sikhs.
Caste Based Regiments
The Caste based Armies have the stamp of the British rulers and were created during the hey day of British rule and conform to the British interpretation of the Martial races. But that is beside the point as the British who were a shrewd judge of Character also created a fighting regiment from the lower castes. This is the Chamar regiment.
During the Second World War the British were looking to expand their recruitment policy as more men were needed to fight the Japanese Imperial Army. At the same time they kept the concept of the Martial race in the backdrop.
The Chamar Regiment
The British High command opted to have a Chamar regiment and history records that the 1st Chamar regiment was created in 1943. Among the Officers who became famous from this regiment are General Joginder Singh and Field Marshal Ayub Khan. It must be understood that the officer cadre of the regiments was not exclusive to that cast and could be from any caste and religion. This is followed even now.
Chamar Regiment in World War II
The Chamar regiment was thrown into battle as a part of 15 Corps which was commanded by lieutenant General Alexander Frank Christison. The Chamar regiment fought well and was part of the Japanese defeat in the battles of Kohima and the Arakan campaign. The Chamar regiment was part of the 268 Indian brigade which was commanded by Brigadier Dyer.
The Chamar regiment along with 15 Corps helped lift the siege of Kohima and followed up with battles with the Imperial army in the 2nd and 3rd Arakan. The 3rd Arakan campaign led to the capture of Rangoon in May 1945. The roll of honor at the War Memorial in Rangoon lists the Chamar regiment. No greater honor can be more than this, as it is an acknowledgement that the Chamar regiment fought bravely and helped drive the Imperial army from Rangoon.
However after the dropping of the Atomic bombs and the surrender of Japan many troops became redundant and were demobilized. In 1946 the Chamar regiment was disbanded due to economic reasons.
The question that we must all ask is whether this regiment can be reconstituted. With a plethora of regiments based on caste, it will be a good gesture to re-incorporate the Chamar regiment. This will make the Indian Army more broad-based. As the British had constituted the Chamar regiment, it will only be carrying on what the British did and we accepted. Hence there is certainly a case for reviving the Chamar Regiment.