Un-equal security: minorities in India’s security sector

Book: Khaki and Ethnic Violence in India - Armed Forces, Police and Paramilitary During Communal Riots (2nd ed)
Author: Omar Khalidi
Rs 300/US$12
Publisher: Three Essays Collective, Gurgaon -

Trilok Singh

Who runs India’s security sector consisting of ministries of home, intelligence and defense affairs? What is the ethnic composition of security forces consisting of army, para-military, police, Intelligence Bureau, and RAW, (Research & Analysis Wing)? Where are the men and women serving in the security sector recruited from? Beyond the requisite educational qualification, age, and physical fitness, what are the parameters on which security personnel are recruited? Geographically where do the men come from? Are some ethnic and religious group under-represented or over-represented in some forces? If so why is this the case?  Does reservation apply in the case of security forces? What is the historical record in this matter? What changes independence and partition of the country brought in its wake? Finally, what is the impact of social composition of the security forces on neutral and fair implementation of rule of law when large scale group violence breaks out? These are very pertinent and sensitive questions.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) based scholar Dr Omar Khalidi attempted an answer way back in 2003 in the book Khaki and Ethnic Violence, published by Three Essays Collective. When first published it attracted fair amount of daily press and academic attention. In a review in India Today, Prof. Sunil Dasgupta wrote: Omar Khalidi unravels the myth of national integration in the Indian security forces and shows that while the martial races theory may have been disavowed, ethnic composition remains unchanged. So sensitive is the issue the government guards the information on the ethnic composition of the army–a reality that makes Khalidi’s book all the more important.

True to what Dasgupta’s review said, the book caused a furor in Lok Sabha during the early days of Sachar Committee in January 2006, when L.K. Advani walked out over the matter of “Muslim headcount” in the army. Advani slammed Khalidi’s book and during a book function at Ahmedabad in October 2008, charged that the book was causing havoc in security affairs.

Balbir Punj, the BJP member of Rajya Sabha, called Khalidi the author of a “Two Regiment Theory” in an article in Outlook India. BJP’s apologist Swapan Dasgupta, called “Khalidi: The Man Behind Army Headcount,” in an article in The Pioneer. Contrary to these accusations, Keki Daruwalla, former Chairman Joint Intelligence Committee, Government of India, complimented that Khalidi “needs to be complimented for raising such an important issue,” in a review in Strategic Studies, published by Jawaharlal Nehru University.

R.K. Raghavan, the former chief of CBI and a frequent commentator on security affairs wrote a review in The Hindu, in which he said that the “author takes up a difficult and controversial subject. I must compliment him for his courage and …his lucid prose.” Ravina Aggarwal, a professor in Smith College found the book offering a “coherent and provocative argument,” in a review published in the Journal of Asian Studies. The final words of senior attorney and author A.G. Noorani were succinct, “ a scholarly book excellently written,” in Frontline. In a review in Police Practice and Research, Ajay K. Mehra, called it a “timely work, densely documented.” Numerous other reviews in the press are similarly complimentary.

This substantially revised, and updated work informs us how many Muslims, Dalits, Sikhs, Christians, and martial caste Hindus there are in the army, para militaries in India at the dawn of the twenty first century.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 June 2010 on page no. 27

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