Mahar Regiment

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Mahar Regiment
Mahar Regimental Insignia.gif
The Regimental Insignia of the Mahar Regiment
Active 1941–present
Country India India
Branch Army
Type Line Infantry
Role Infantry
Size 19 battalions
Motto Yash Sidhi (Success & Attainment)
War Cry Bolo Hindustan Ki Jai (Say Victory to India)
Decorations 1 Param Vir Chakra, 4 Maha Vir Chakra, 29 Vir Chakra, 1 Kirti Chakra, 12 Shaurya Chakra, 22 Vishisht Seva Medals and 63 Sena Medals.[1]
Insignia
Regimental Insignia A pair of crossed Vickers medium machine guns, mounted on a tripod with a dagger. The dagger was initially the Pillar of Koregaon, where the combined British and Mahar troops defeated the overwhelming Peshwa Army. The pillar was subsequently removed and was replaced with a dagger.[1]

The Mahar Regiment is an Infantry Regiment of the Indian Army. Although it was originally intended to be a regiment consisting of troops from the Mahars in Maharashtra, the Mahar Regiment is one of the only regiments in the Indian Army that is composed of troops from all communities and regions of India.

History[edit]

Under Shivaji and the Maratha Empire[edit]

The Mahars were recruited by the Marathi king Shivaji as scouts and fort guards in his army. They were also heavily recruited by the British East India Company, at one part forming one-sixth of the Company's Bombay Army. The Bombay Army especially favoured the Mahar troops for their bravery and loyalty to the Colours, and also because they could be relied upon during the Anglo-Maratha Wars. They achieved many successes, most notably on 1 January 1818, when only 500 Soldiers of Mahar Regiment of the 2nd Battalion of 1st Regiment of the Bombay Native Light Infantry along with 250 cavalrymen and 24 cannon defeated 20,000 horsemen and 8,000 footsoldiers of the Peshwa Army in what would be called the Battle of Koregaon. This battle was commemorated by an obelisk, known as the Koregaon pillar, which featured on the Mahar Regiment crest until Indian Independence. The Bombay Army also saw action in the Indian Mutiny of 1857, and two regiments (the 21st and 27th) joined the revolt under the British.

The Martial Races theory and disbandment[edit]

After the Revolt, the British officers of the Indian Army, particularly those who had served in the First and Second Afghan Wars, began to give currency to the Martial Races Theory. This theory basically held that some races and communities among the Indians were naturally warlike, and more suited to warfare than others. A major proponent of this theory was General Lord Roberts of Kandahar, who became Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army in the November 1885. There was a gradual "Punjabisation" of the Indian Army to the detriment of the other communities. The final blow for the Mahar troops came in 1892, when it was decided to institute "class regiments" in the Indian Army. The Mahars were left out of these class regiments, and it was notified that the Mahars, among with some other classes, were no longer to be recruited. The Mahar troops, who included 104 Viceroy's Commissioned Officers and a host of Non-commissioned officers and Sepoys were demobilised. For years, the Mahars regarded this event as a great betrayal of their loyalty by a government they had steadfastly served for over a hundred years.

1892-1941[edit]

After the demobilisation of the Mahar troops, there were many attempts by the leaders of the Mahar community to persuade the Government to let them serve in the Army once again. Petitions to this effect were drafted by ex-soldiers such as Gopal Baba Walangkar in 1894, and Shivram Janba Kamble in 1904. These petitions were supported in principle by the politician and social reformer Gopal Krishna Gokhale, who was opposed to the Martial Races theory. They were also supported by the Indian National Congress, who were also opposed to the recruiting policies of the Army.

The recruitment policies of the British Indian Army continued until the beginning of the First World War in 1914. The War forced the Government to begin more broad-based recruiting, and the Mahars were at last allowed to enlist in the Army. One battalion of Mahar troops, the 111th Mahars was raised in the June 1917. However, the battalion did not see much service during the War, and in 1920 it was merged with the 71st battalion of the Punjab Regiment. Finally, the battalion was disbanded in March 1921, and the Mahars were once again demobilised.

The period between the wars saw increased efforts by the Mahars to persuade the government to let them enlist in the Army. One proponent of Mahar recruitment was Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, whose father, Sub. Maj. Ramji Maloji Sakpal had been a soldier in the British Indian Army. However, the proposed reorganisation of the Indian Army that was to occur in the 1930s was postponed because of a lack of funds in the Great Depression. In 1939, the Second World War broke out, and once again, the Army was forced to overlook its narrow minded recruitment policies in the face of harsh necessity.

Raising of the Mahar Regiment[edit]

In the July 1941, B. R. Ambedkar was appointed to the Defence Advisory Committee of the Viceroy's Executive Council. He used this appointment to exert pressure within the military establishment for a Mahar regiment. He also appealed to the Mahars to join the Army in large numbers. In October, the Army gave in, and the 1st Battalion of the Mahar Regiment was raised in Belgaum under Lt. Col. HJR Jackson of the 13th Frontier Force Rifles and Sub. Maj. Sheikh Hassnuddin. The 2nd Battalion was raised in Kamptee in June 1942 under Lt. Col. JWK Kirwan and Sub. Maj. Bholaji Ranjane. A cap badge was designed for the Regiment by Capt. EEL Mortlemans, an officer of 2nd Mahar. The badge featured the Koregaon Pillar over the word "MAHAR". The third battalion, the 25th Mahars, was raised in Belgaum in the August 1942 by Lt. Col V. Chambier and Sub. Maj. Sardar Bahadur Ladkojirao Bhonsale, and the 3rd Mahars were raised in Nowshera by Lt. Col. RND Frier and Sub. Maj. Bholaji Ranjane. During the War, the 1st and 3rd Mahars served in the North-West Frontier Province, while the 2nd and 25th Battalions were employed on internal security duties within the country. The 2nd Battalion also saw service in the Burma Campaign as a part of the 23rd Indian Division, where they suffered 5 casualties and had one officer Mentioned in dispatches. They also served in Iraq after the War as a part of PAIFORCE. In 1946, the 25th Mahars were disbanded, along with many other garrison battalions of the Indian Army. Its officers and men were largely absorbed by the other three battalions of the Regiment. In the October 1946, the Regiment was converted into a Machine Gun Regiment, and the Regimental Centre was established at Kamptee. Following conversion of the Regiment to a machine-gun regiment, the cap-badge was changed. The new badge had two crossed Vickers machine guns over the Koregaon Pillar, over a scroll that said "The Mahar MG Regiment". The three surviving battalions of the regiment served as a part of the Punjab Boundary Force, and took part in escorting refugees during the Partition of India.

The Border Scouts[edit]

The Border Scouts were an irregular force formed by the people of the border villages in East Punjab during Partition. Hailing as they did from the erstwhile greater state of East Punjab (which included the present states of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh), the force had people hailing from a greater mix of ethnic, religious and caste backgrounds than was the norm in the Indian Army. They did some useful work defending villages from attacks during partition, and as a reward, were given a more permanent character as the East Punjab Frontier Scouts in 1948. They served along the border with Pakistan as border guards, and were regarded as a useful adjunct of the Punjab Armed Police. The unit was redesignated the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the Border Scouts in 1951, with recruitment from different North Indian communities. In 1956, the decision to convert this force into Machine-Gun Regiments was taken, and the three battalions were merged with the Mahar Regiment, the only Indian Machine Gun Regiment in existence at the time. They joined the Regiment as the 4th, 5th and 6th Battalions of the Mahar Regiment, and it is to these units that the Regiment traces its mixed-class composition. The three Battalions style themselves battalions of the Mahar Regiment (Borders) even today.

Composition and Recruitment[edit]

The class composition of the Regiment also changed. While 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 7th, 8th and 13th battalions were all pure Mahar battalions, the others were mixed classes right down to the smallest sub-unit level. The conversion training started in November 1963 with 1st Mahar and completed in May 1964 with 10th Mahar. The year 1965 saw all the battalions of the regiment gearing up for operations. These included the newly raised 11th and 12th battalions that had the unique composition of Bengalis, Oriyas and Gujratis - the communities that had been stamped as non-martial by the British. Their entry into the Mahar fraternity added strength to national integration-the distinctive feature which the regiment has always been proud of.[2]

nagpur

  • 1st Battalion
  • 2nd Battalion
  • 3rd Battalion
  • 4th Battalion (Borders)
  • 5th Battalion (Borders)
  • 6th Battalion (Borders)
  • 7th Battalion
  • 8th Battalion
  • 9th Battalion
  • 10th Battalion
  • 11th Battalion
  • 12th Battalion
  • 13th Battalion
  • 14th Battalion (formerly 31st Mahar)
  • 15th Battalion (formerly 32nd Mahar)
  • 17th Battalion
  • 18th Battalion
  • 19th Battalion
  • 20th Battalion
  • 21st Battalion [1]

Former Battalions[edit]

  • 25th Battalion (disbanded 1946).
  • 16th Battalion (formerly 8th Parachute Regiment) (converted to 12th Mechanised Infantry in 1981)

Allied Units[edit]

  • 108th Infantry Battalion Territorial Army (based at Saugor)
  • 115th Infantry Battalion Territorial Army (based at Belgaum)
  • 1st Battalion Rashtriya Rifles
  • 30th Battalion Rashtriya Riflesu
  • 51st Battalion Rashtriya Rifles

See also[edit]

References[edit]