Modern Indian History - Change in Army


  • The Indian army was carefully reorganized after 1858. Some changes were made necessary by the transfer of power to the Crown.

  • The East India Company's European forces were merged with the Crown troops. But the army was reorganized most of all to prevent the recurrence of another revolt.

  • The rulers had seen that their bayonets were the only secure foundation of their rule. Several following steps were taken to minimize, if not completely eliminate, the capacity of Indian soldiers to revolt −

    • The domination of the army by its European branch was carefully guaranteed.

    • The proportion of Europeans to Indians in the army was raised and fixed at one to two in the Bengal Army and two to five in the Madras and Bombay armies.

    • The European troops were kept in key geographical and military positions. The crucial branches of the army like artillery and, later in the 20th century, tanks, and armored corps were put exclusively in European hands.

    • The older policy of excluding Indians from the officer corps was strictly maintained. Till 1914, no Indian could rise higher than the rank of a subedar.

    • The organization of the Indian section of the army was based on the policy of "balance and counterpoise" or "divide and rule" so as to prevent its chances of uniting again in an anti-British uprising.

    • Discrimination on the basis of caste, region, and religion was practiced, in recruitment to the army.

    • A fiction was created that Indians consisted of "martial" and "non-martial" classes.

    • Soldiers from Avadh, Bihar, Central India, and South India who had first helped the British conquer India but had later taken part in the Revolt of 1857, were declared to be non-martial. They were no longer taken in the army on a large scale.

    • The Sikhs, Gurkhas, and Pathans, who had assisted in the suppression of the Revolt, were declared to be martial and were recruited in large numbers.

    • The Indian regiments were made a mixture of various castes' and groups' which were so placed as to balance each other.

    • Communal, caste, tribal, and regional loyalties were encouraged among the soldiers, so that the sentiment of nationalism would not grow among them.

    • It was isolated from nationalist ideas by every possible means. Newspapers, journals, and nationalist publications were prevented from reaching the soldiers.

  • Later, all such efforts failed in the long run and sections of the Indian army played an important role in our struggle for freedom.