Indianisation (British India)

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Indianisation was a process introduced in the later period of British India (early 20th century) whereby Indian officers were promoted to more senior positions in government services, formerly reserved for Europeans. In the Indian police, the rank of Deputy Superintendent was introduced to prepare Indian officers for promotion to higher rank. In the armed forces, the process referred to the replacement of British officers by Indians. The progress was slow and unsatisfactory to the Indian nationalist politicians, however events, mainly the Second World War and the partition and independence which followed it, overtook the programme.

Indian Army[edit]

It was announced in 1918 that the King's Commission would be opened to Indians for whom ten places would be reserved in the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, to be trained as officers of the Indian Army. There was great disquiet amoingst the British, who disliked the idea of serving under native officers; others felt that without good breeding, a public school education, and sufficient suitable training, Indians would not become good officers and would neither be able to lead nor be accepted by the native troops. There was a firm belief among British officers and the home government that only the British educational system could provide the right kind of officer, and that it could do it only from suitable stock.[1]

The Sandhurst training directly pitted young Indian men against young Europeans in conditions alien to their upbringing and experience, and not surprisingly the results were unsatisfactory. Of the first batch of 25 cadets admitted to Sandhurst, ten failed to meet the requisite standard, two died, two resigned, one was deprived of his commission, and ten passed. To remedy this, on 13 March 1922 the Prince of Wales Royal Indian Military College was established for preparing native Indian cadets for entry to Sandhurst.

In the mean time, the first measure taken by the British government to "Indianise" the army - the Eight Unit Scheme of Indianisation - was announced on 17 February 1923. Indian proposals for faster induction were rejected, and equally unrealistic plans for indianisation over forty years, with restricted kinds of commission, were suggested. Finally, only eight units of the Indian Army were accepted by the British for Indianisation - only five infantry battalions out of 104, two cavalry regiments out of 21, and one pioneer battalion out of seven. They were to be reorganised on the British Army model, with King's Commissioned Indian Officers at every officer level and Indian Warrant Officers replacing Viceroy's Commissioned Officers. The eight units selected were:[2][3]

Of these eight units, the 2nd Battalion the 1st Madras Pioneers was disbanded in 1933 for economic reasons. However, after ten years another eight units were chosen for Indianisation, one of which was the wartime 8th Battalion the 19th Hyderabad Regiment, today the 4th Battalion, the Kumaon Regiment of the Indian Army.[2]

Indianisation was considered a failure by the Indians, due to the refusal of the British Government to increase the extremely slow rate of induction and the reluctance of the British to accept Indian officers on an equal footing, both professionally and socially.[2] The scheme was suspended at the outbreak of the Second World War, at which point only a handful of military units had been Indianised. The process was never reintroduced, as there was a wartime influx of Emergency Commissioned Officers, posted into all units. In 1947, India became independent, and Indian officers immediately became eligible to fill senior appointments, with accelerated promotion.


  1. ^ Mason, Philip (1974). A matter of honour. London: Holt, Rhinehart & Winston. ISBN 0-03-012911-7. 
  2. ^ a b c Khanduri, Chandra B. (2006). Thimayya: an amazing life. New Delhi: Knowledge World. p. 394. ISBN 978-81-87966-36-4. Retrieved 30 Jul 2010. 
  3. ^ We Were There. MOD website