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Indian Army to defend 3-caste President’s Bodyguard recruitment policy in court

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President’s Bodyguard is the Indian Army’s oldest regiment, and invites members from only 3 castes — Jats, Rajputs & Jat Sikhs — to apply for recruitment.

New Delhi: The Indian Army is set to tell the Delhi High Court that the present recruitment policy for the President’s Bodyguard is legitimate after the court sought responses of the Centre and the Army chief on a petition alleging that candidates from only three castes were considered for recruitment to the prestigious regiment.

The petition was filed in November last year. The responses from the central government and the Army chief were sought during the latest hearing on 21 December, 2018.

The President’s Bodyguard is a cavalry regiment of the Indian Army that invites members from only three castes — Jats, Rajputs and Jat Sikhs — to apply for recruitment.

“The Army will establish that the present system of recruitment, based on historical legacies and constitutional propriety, is legitimate,” a top Army source told ThePrint.

He added that the policy has been examined by four committees since 1947 and everything was found in order.

Army sources also said that the Supreme Court has already dismissed a PIL (in January) on the same issue.

Recruitment into the PBG, as it is known today, is much coveted and in many cases, hereditary. However, like several instances in the past, the recruitment policy has been challenged again this year.

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The case

The latest petition filed by Haryana resident Gaurav Yadav has sought that the recruitment of the President’s Bodyguard held on 4 September, 2017, be set aside as only the three castes were invited to apply.

The petitioner said he belonged to the Ahir/Yadav caste and fulfilled all the eligibility criteria of recruitment except his caste, and sought that he be recruited for the post.

A bench of Justices S. Muralidhar and Sanjeev Narula issued notices to the Ministry of Defence, Chief of the Army Staff, Commandant of the President’s Bodyguard and Director of Army Recruitment, seeking replies within four weeks.

The matter has been listed for hearing on 8 May, 2019.

History of President’s Bodyguard

The PBG is the oldest regiment of the Indian Army and completed 245 years of service this year, say official records.

It is the senior-most unit of the Army, whose distinction is in its position as ‘Right of the Line’ on all official and ceremonial occasions. The PBG, thus, takes precedence over all other regiments and corps.

President’s bodyguard | Indian Army

The PBG was raised in 1773 at Benares (now Varanasi) by then Governor Warren Hastings, with a strength of 50 handpicked troopers. This nucleus of the Bodyguard was later augmented by another 50 horsemen, provided by Raja Cheyt Singh of Benares, thus bringing the overall strength of the regiment up to 100 horses and men by the end of that year, say records.

The establishment of the regiment varied through the years, being augmented in times of war and it attained its maximum strength of 1,929 all ranks, as per the Army List of 1845, just prior to the First Sikh War.

The PBG continued to be a select Cavalry Unit, primarily for the personal and battlefield security of the Governor and later Governor General, who often had to personally lead his forces into battle.

The Raising Charter clearly spelt out the role of the PBG, namely — “To act as Bodyguard to the Governor in peace and to accompany him as Commander-in-Chief in battle”.

This unique band of select troops, in over two centuries of service, has seen action in various roles — as mounted and dismounted cavalry; Artillery, with ‘Galloper Guns’ in the Egyptian Expedition of 1801-1802; Marines in 1809, protecting naval transports in the Bay of Bengal; and more recently as mechanised and airborne troops.

Also read: Indian Army must work on inducting women in combat roles or court may force its hand

Historical composition

Initially, recruitment was almost exclusively from among “Mussalmans” of the area of Eastern Uttar Pradesh. Towards the last decade of the 18th century, Brahmins from Bengal began to replace the earlier “Moghuls”, say records.

Later, during a review of the Madras Presidency parade, Marquess Wellesley (then the Earl of Mornington) was so impressed by the bearing, discipline and sword drill of the Madras Cavalry, that on return to Fort William, he ordered the troops of the Madras Cavalry to form the greater part of the corps.

Records do not show for how long recruitment to the Bodyguard from Madras continued. However, 70 years later, the composition of the corps had reverted to Brahmins, Rajputs and UP Mussalmans.

Recruitment from the Punjab commenced with Sikh troopers in 1883 and Punjabi Mussalmans in 1887, the latter eventually replacing the Brahmins and the Rajput elements. Thus, by 1947, the regiment comprised half Jat Sikh and half Punjabi Mussalman troopers.

With the birth of India and Pakistan as two sovereign independent states, the Muslim component of the Bodyguard was allotted to Pakistan and recruitment to the regiment in India was opened, in equal share, to Sikhs, Jats and Rajputs with officers and administrative staff from all over India, add records.

A yeoman service

Post-Independence, in keeping with its high traditions, the PBG, which many regard as a yeoman service, maintained law and order in the aftermath of Partition in and around the national capital.

In 1962, its armoured cars were deployed for the defence of Chushul at heights of over 10,000 feet.

The regiment saw action in 1965, when it participated in “Operation Ablaze” in the Western Theatre.

In 1988 and 1989, detachments of the regiment, served overseas with the Indian Peacekeeping Force in Sri Lanka. Troopers from the PBG have served with the Indian contingents forming part of the United Nations Forces in Somalia, Angola, Sierra Leone and Sudan. The regiment has also sent 20 detachments to the world’s highest battlefield, the Siachen Glacier.

President’s Bodyguard today

As of today, PBG is a small body of handpicked men, comprising four officers, 14 Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) and 161 troopers backed by administrative support personnel.

This establishment has not changed much since the 19th century. Its men are trained for operational duties, both, as tankmen and airborne troops in addition to their ceremonial role.

The physical standards for the PBG are very specific with six feet being the minimum height for a trooper. Men of the PBG are expert horsemen, adept at ceremonial punctilio, trained combat paratroopers, armoured vehicle crewmen and tradesmen. Honed in diverse combat skills, the PBG personnel have proven their worth in battle as well as in mounted tourneys and equestrian skills.

This report has been updated to correct the date of the latest hearing in the case, which was 21 December, 2018, not 26 December, 2018. The error is regretted.

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  1. AHIRS/YADAVS are sons of Chandravanshi Yadu and Krishna who taught Pandavs to fight for their rights and if not given snatch it. What we want is equality if it will not be given then we will snatch it. AHIR regiment is our right and we will have it.
    Jai Yadav Jai Madhav

  2. AHIRS/YADAVS have always fought for our motherland Bharat and every true Bharatvasi will do the same. What everyone wants is equality and justice in this The Republic of India where art. 370 and 35A are abolished which were illegal and unjust. So can this caste based system in Armed Forces be abolished. AHIRS are sons of Yadu and Krishna who taught Pandavs to fight for their rights and if not given snatch it. What we want is equality if it will not be given then we will snatch it. AHIR regiment is our right and we will have it.
    Jai Yadav Jai Madhav

  3. There is no reservation in Bollywood, Indian cricket team, scientific departments, and Indian army (officer ranks). The reservation must be forced into all these places.

  4. The constitution of PBG had been varying historically as is evident from the article.There shouldn’t be any problem and delay in opening the recruitment to PBG for all suitable Indians.
    Reservations as such are not applicable to armed forces,and as of now even the pure regiments like jats,rajputs,punjab etc have also troops from mixed castes.
    As the strenghth of PBG is limited to less than 200,it would be prudent if the best Indian males irrespective of caste,region and religion are recruited as is done for our cricket,hockey teams.It would also be communicative of our ideology of true national integration and assimilation.

  5. Friends ……
    Indian army still recruited its bulk from few warrior castes . the marshal race theory propagated by britishers proved itself strong enough in the battle field .
    Let me remind you friends , basically president bodyguards is a cavalry unit , which was historically based on class composition ….
    Each and every armoured formation has it’s fixed class composition . …
    Forget about PBG , look towards any armoured regiment like 19 cavalry , hudson horse , poona horse ,skinner horse , central india horse , etc ……
    All are formed over a fixed class composition, each formation has 3 squadron , one from jat , another with rajput and sikh jat ………..
    Plz go through the real facts , you will find this type of class composition in every armoured regt..
    Fix class composition are strictly enforced while they recruited enlisted soldiers . In officer cadre there is no caste bar .

  6. Why should such petition be accepted by courts. If the issue is about enrolment , there are many avenues open for everyone to get enrolled in army.

  7. Let us be truthful. President’s Body Guards is 99% Cerimonial Show-piece. They recruit Very Tall Horsemen who ALWAYS remain Very Close to the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces or President. They get Bigger Share of coveted Foreign Postings with double the Pay merely being Close to the Center of Power.

  8. This has been proved at different junctures of the needs to the nation. Every one is a supportive hand to the nation and will remain as a supportive. At certain instances few of them has proved themselves as a bold and courageous and ready to sacrifice everything for the sake of nation. So let the things go smoothly instead we learn a bad lesson at some other point. Regards. Chhillar DS.

  9. There was a program that was aired a few months ago on PBG. They showed their tradtion, recruitment method and policies. The petitinor said he had fulfilled all the categories to be a recruited into PBG…. Are those official mad to reject someone bcoz he is an ahir or some other caste….. He was not ready to accept his shortcomings and had to blame the officials…. Also can anyone answer one simple question….why the hell do we need reservation even after 70 years of independence? Or plz ask a question to urself do we still need these kind reservation or quota system after so many years of independence? Only bcoz ur caste falls in the reserved category does not mean that ur eligible for a government jobs….. Its high time that we scrap all these things amd ask everyone to compete in the open market…..

  10. Indian sikhs,jats,rajputs and the muslims of these regions still believe that they are the most superior of races in India and do deserve these racial preferences which were bestowed on them ,not for military merit but because they allied with british in revolt of 1857 after which the martial race theory was brought.
    When any particular race ,caste or community’s morale is boosted and praised, they are bound to perform well. Israelies were never good fighter.Today after formation of their country and praise from their country and community ,they are one of the most elite fighting force in asia.
    And here in india, the north indians are still engrossed in martial race theories just to satiate their narcissistic superiority complex. Countless people from others castes and communities died and die for india, but just because they are not from the british appeased martial race which helped keeping few communities faithful to british and others against this prejudice and hence disunity. When people from casteless or communities who don’t have representation by any name in regiments die, they are forgotten as indian martyrs. when these people die ,the credit goes to the particular community on whom the regiment is named. And people of other community who don’t have regiments in their name are humiliated and name callled by this very people who have regiments in their community’s name.It’s really disgusting that such beliefs of martial race are still believed and followed in india. Give someone a gun and morale to fight, anybody can fight as bravely as anyone else irrespective of which caste, colour, race or religion they are born of.
    But the reality is in india only culture of certain regions are shown superior and worthy of praise than other’s which is perpetrated by both glorification of their culture,upbringing,regiments, by the entertainment media and the national news media which are exculsivity of this particular regions as well.
    PS : I don’t support caste reservation in public sector either. I’m highly against it.

    • The thing is I am a bania I have bania diet I can’t fight their diet and personality match the fight and there is less conflict

      No excuse

  11. So far, nobody has problem in caste system quota on many central jobs including medical…. No idiot filed any petition in Supreme Court to abolish the qouta disease. Why getting itching in ass for PBG??? This is not caste but a certain race with the blood of glorious warriors… Can any one compare with Gurkhas when the question arises about bravery, courage , valour or sacrifice…. ???

  12. What about the caste of the guard who shot the Mrs.G? Does patriotism depend on caste/ethnicity? Armymen capable of doing the job must be given a fair chance.

  13. There is nothing in the article which gives a scientific or legal reason for this prefers to 3 castes that too from a specific region of the country to compose the presidential bodyguard. It is not a caste based recruited regiment like the Jat regiment etc. There have been many changes in its composition during its history.
    There are many successful soldiers, paratroopers, commandos from all the three services who have demonstrated exemplary courage. So, the recruitment to this elite unit should be based on merit rather than caste. I think, the President, being a dalit, should say something about this since he is the commander of the armed forces.
    The President cannot claim to be Indian, Dalit, Lawyer and commander of armed forces of India and allow this tradition to continue which is insulting to the Constitution of India itself.

  14. Army is not an average government 9 to 5, take-it-or-leave-it job which anyone should tinker with. Armchair critics can say anything; they do not serve in the line of fire. Traditions are uppermost in regimental life. Just think: it is because of these traditions that ours is one of the best forces in the world. Those who wish to find faults, go stay a week in Uri, or a few nights in the J & K Valley. How about in Siachen, where death ⚰ is around you? Ask those who stay there for months at a stretch.

  15. The Present Colonel of the Presidential Bodyguard is a Colonel Dhiraj Chengappa who is neither a Jat (Hindu or Sikh), nor a Rajput. He is a South Indian Hindu from Karnataka.

  16. And besides, the comments from Nair and Shubham show how idiotic we are and cannot live without poking our nose somewhere we have absolutely no idea about.
    Jawan recruitment is caste based in a few regiments to preserve the ethinicity and the core of the regiment. And please dont treat it as just another sarkari job. Officer recruitment is pan India… If you have the guts and the will, join as an officer.

    • I do not have a problem with jawan recruitment to caste based regiments being restricted to that particular caste to preserve the ethnicity, which anyway, has no scientific rationale. But, when you are a member of the PRESIDENTIAL BODYGUARD, who represent the whole country and is commander in chief of the entire Indian army, don’t you think it would be both rational and fair, for the best of the best, all across the armed forces be recruited into it.
      In addition, the history of the regiment itself shows that there were many changes during its history and there is no laid down rule or specific rationale for the current composition. Hence, the President of India being a Dalit, can as well bring about the change by requesting the central government to change the rules.

  17. I think in India officers are well trained in saying no to any reform,any justified public demand ,this stand of army shows they are no different.

    • Ahirs should stop taking advantage of reservations first then talk about equality.
      Tumhe mile to thik or dusron mele to jalti hai ?

      • Ahirs getting reservations in jobs is totally constitutional and backed by law made in parliament. While what is being done in PBG is unconstitutional and reflective of the casteist mindset of our society which made reservation in jobs a absolute requirement.

  18. Army is not fool that they have continued such a tradition. They have not spoken a word on the bill that will allow the LGBT community to serve in the Army. So there will be some reason they dont want to allow other castes to enter PBG. Lets wait and see whats that reason is. And dont try to aim the Army if you want to enter in a dialogue with someone choose it to be the Government.

  19. Its time the army junked such casteist practices.
    Its a shame the army still has caste based regiments and too much flab to fight wars of 21st century.

  20. LoL..
    …i wonder if u guys even know that many punjabi musalmans are rajputs as well,6 out of 11 pakistanis conferred the nishan-e-haider are infact rajput punjabi musalmans……..jatts sikhs and hindu jaats are the same(baring the religion) ,stop treating them different……….Lastly it’s not caste you moron…..it’s ethnicity…….go to hell with your religion and god

  21. This defence shows how we are independent, democratic country but our minds and institutions still have colonial mindset. What a sad picture that army has decided to defend them when we hear voices for gender equality. This caste preference is form of untouchability and SC in Sabarimala verdict has expanded meaning of article 17. This caste privileges shows how our various top posts in the army and other forces remain tobe controlled by few sections of the society even when there is equality of opportunity and talent as standard norms.

  22. This is unacceptable. Army needs to be modernized. How can they justify this blatant castism? There are many ills in our Indian Army. For example the buddy system. This too should be removed. Current government is creating an environment where you are branded as anti national if you question the government or Army.

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