Social media platforms including Twitter and Facebook are buzzing with posts claiming that a “Muslim Regiment” of the Indian Army refused to fight in the 1965 India-Pakistan war.
Syed Ata Hasnain, a retired Lieutenant General in the Indian Army, clarified that there was no Muslim Regiment ever and certainly not in 1965. “But Muslims fighting as part of multi-class regiments proved their absolute commitment and worth,” he affirmed.
Quartermaster Havildar Abdul Hamid received a Param Vir Chakra for his courage and valiance during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. “Major (later Lt Gen) Mohammad Zaki and Major Abdul Rafey Khan both won the Vir Chakra, the latter posthumously even as he battled the Pakistani division commanded by his uncle, Maj Gen Sahibzada Yaqub Khan,” stated Hasnain. “Such were the legends of Muslim warriors in 1965.”
During the British rule, Indian regiments namely including Sikh, Garhwal, Kumaon, Jat, Mahar, Gorkha, Rajput among others were formed as princely armies. After Independence, these armies were absorbed by the Indian Army without changing their names to preserve their rich histories. Some of these regiments have even fought during World wars.
“Post-Independence, majority of Muslim officers and soldiers migrated to Pakistan, leaving a minuscule minority as the core or seed element of Indian Muslim servicemen distributed in different regiments and units. In that context new Muslim, Christian or Buddhist regiments made no sense as ethnic and regional identity took priority over faith as entities of representation,” explained Hasnain.
Major General (Retired) Shashi Asthana talking to BBC emphasizes that the recruitment in the Indian Army is not based on caste or religion, the army only sees fitness. He further said that there is no reservation in the army based on religion and the selection process is only through merit. “If you are physically fit then only you will be selected.”
A video surfaced in 2018 that garnered a lot of attention on social media. In the video, an Indian Army officer is seen narrating an experience, when a senior asked him about his religion.
“In the Army, you live in a very plural and secularistic society and you act like a unit,” he said. “When I was commissioned and I joined SF (Special Forces), my CO asked what is my religion and caste. I said- Sir I am a Hindu Rajput.
He said- B****y fellow, you take a dip in the dirty water. So I went and I took a dip in the water,” the officer is seen saying in the video. “Then I realized that there is something wrong I have said. Then again he asked and I said, sir, my religion is SF and my caste is SF.
He then told me – you see, you are an officer. And your religion is the religion of your boys. So when we have this kind of template- and when you apply this kind of template in the country, I think most of the problems would be solved,” he further added.
If you had to listen to one man today. #OneTalkToday
Who – Col SS Shekhawat, CO 21 Special Forces, the most decorated serving officer.
— Raghu Raman (@captraman) February 7, 2018
There is no official census to show the number of soldiers enlisted in the Indian Army. Former Chief of Staff Gen. J. J. Singh denied there was a headcount of actively enlisted Muslim soldiers, maintaining that would be a gross violation of the secular nature of the army, reported The Diplomat.
“I, a Muslim, was commissioned in Garhwal Rifles, a pure Hindu regiment with recruitment base only in Garhwal in Uttarakhand. Simply put, the faith of my troops became my faith; similarly, their culture, language and food habits have never left me,” wrote Hasnain.
He added that Indian army officers uniquely remain comfortable with this arrangement, as do their families; it is an ethos not many Indians understand let alone Pakistanis who have never shared a bench or a tiffin box with people of another faith.
There has never been a Muslim regiment in the Indian Army and the claims made on social media are completely false.