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Defence minister has gone mad: Gen Manekshaw on Jagjivan Ram demanding more Dalits in Army

Sam Manekshaw was the hero of the 1971 war, and Jagjivan Ram could do little if the General had put his foot down.

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Only after the 1965 and 1971 wars, with India having defeated Pakistan and the fear of China having receded a little, was the issue of army recruitment opened up a little. Jagjivan Ram, during his terms as Defence Minister (1970– 1974, 1977– 1978), made efforts to increase the number of Scheduled Castes in the Army as well as the number of new mixed units, something he had previously pressed for when a member of the cabinet.

The Defence Ministry consistently denied this, but a statement by Ram in March 1974 that recruitment was being reduced in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, and Haryana because of overrepresentation in these areas, though quickly retracted after protests from Sikh leaders and Punjab, suggests that he was concerned with carrying out a prudent rebalancing of the force’s composition.


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In an interview, Lieutenant General Sinha, who as a Brigadier had been appointed Deputy Adjutant General by General Manekshaw in March 1972, recalled Defence Minister Ram’s efforts to open up the army to Scheduled Castes:

“In 1972 I was Deputy Adjutant General, and Manekshaw was Chief and Jagjivan Ram was Defence Minister. Jagjivan Ram looked over the roll of IMA cadets being commissioned and raised a query re the list sent by the commanding officer of IMA. How many SCs were on the list? I checked up and said 1%.

He wrote a strong note to Manekshaw. Jagjivan Ram wrote to Manekshaw saying that government had decided that there should be a SC reservation of 15% and one for the STs of 7.5%. Why is this not being observed? Manekshaw sent for me. This DM has gone mad, he said, but we have to draft a reply. He knew Jagjivan Ram and I were from Bihar. I found in the files a note that said that when reservations were introduced there was a clause that said that this would not apply to the army.

So in my reply I said that this was the case. But that as far as ranks below officers were concerned we have more than 15% Scheduled Castes already in the army. We have the Mahar regiment, and every battalion has 75– 100 depressed classes as sweepers, cobblers, dhobis etc. In terms of officers we had hardly any SCs in 1947 but we are making progress and now have 1% and it will grow further.


Also read: Jagjivan Ram, Dalit champion with world record as parliamentarian who almost became PM


Since 1947 we have had continual conflicts and preparations for conflict. Under these conditions we cannot compromise national security. I accept it if the Minister wants to take action against me.”

As Sinha told the story, “But of course [with Manekshaw] the hero of 1971, with these reasons, and as the hero of the war, there was little Jagjivan Ram could do.”

In the officer corps, the recruitment did broaden at the junior level. And as a result of the creation of several new training academies in the 1950s and 1960s and an increase in the ways officers could join up, new officers now came through many different streams, which further lessened the chances that they would coordinate on the basis of common ties and affiliations. But at the senior level, as in 1951, the force was still very much dominated by Punjabis and other members of the traditional “martial castes.”

Reproduced from Army and Nation by Steven I. Wilkinson, by permission of the publisher for South Asia, Permanent Black (copublished outside South Asia by Harvard University Press).

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32 COMMENTS

  1. Armed forces need officers who have the quality of leadership ,courage, presence of mind during adverse situation, quick in decision making, intelligence ability to bear hardships and many more and leading from the front. The present day SCs and STs, getting reservation quota everywhere par below qualifying Marks,and enjoying their life in colleges Univrrsities with free scholarship will they have such qualities, as needed for an officer.?

    • Strange, a man of the rank of Air Commander feels, even after 72 years of freedom that SC/STs come on quota. Mr Dhagat, SC candidates topped IAS list last year & 4 years back. Please change your thinking gear 7 suggest way how they can be brought at par with others. If still, the benefits have not reached SC/STs, its we who are at fault.

  2. Present military needs such General to cope up with burocratic Defence Ministry who are blindfolded towards implementation of OROP and other needs of Jawans and Exservicemen. Salute to Field Marshal SHFJ Maneksha.

  3. About those times a proposal was circulated in the army seeking views of units’ reaction of discontinuing the tradition of presenting silver trophies/mementos by individual officers/units to their officer messes/units. The entire Army rejected the suggestion in one voice. That killed the issue.

    The reason for the proposal was to prevent corruption. It was feared then that the silverware could be miappropriated by someone from the units.

    That came from someone in the MoD, may be the DM himself.

  4. Reservation in the Army … Seriously??
    The people in the Army need to be soldiers, warriors ….. And how do you make some one a warrior by reservation….

    Gen Manekshaw is an icon … Nobody can match upto him …..

  5. If you want to increase the count of dalit in all defence, so do one thing kill all general caste people… Now general caste want the reservation. For job.

    • Totally agree the armed forces need people to be motivated constanly and not live in the dear that their postings and promotion s would be determined not by their work but their castebecoming a baby or an ias officer is one thing but q fauji at any rank should not be dictated by caste politics need generals like Sam today

  6. No politics should be permitted in matters of defence. The caste and religion matters are internal while armed forces have to take on external adversaries who are ruthless and deadly. A small mistake can be catastrophic.

  7. If army doesn’t have reservations then why the application form has columns for SC/ST. Army and Judiciary have nepotism levels which will put politicians to shame.

  8. Where the sc st candidates who appeared for the army recruitment were fit enough and were not recruited just because they were DC STs? In a civil job if they do not perform well it could be compensated/ rectified witj the help of other capable workers. It can not be in the case of the army. One small mistake can cause irreparable damages to the army and the nation. It is common sense that certain things can not be applied every where.

  9. The Media should avoid writing about the Indian Army in general and protect them from the claws of unethical politicians and the general public who may not approbate why the ” Army” does what it does.This will avoid unnecessary media trials by I’ll informed panelists and attendant trauma to our fefense,which has been doing yeoman service to our Country.

  10. Shankar definitely must be belonging to the reserved category who enjoys all benefits though not deserving
    Present army chief is a spunk less fellow who can even sell his mother for personal gain

  11. The Defence ministers of that time were totally unaware of the structure of the Armed forces. Having passed middle age and clad in dhoti, they hardly could distinguish between a Major and Major General. Once at Palam while inspecting an Air Craft display, the D.M. J. Ram enquired if the pilots lined up along side were the drivers .
    After 1971 war, he suggested a common mess for all categories of armed forces personnel from sepoy to Gen. There is no use blaming them for any faux pas since they were totally ignorant and just filled a post based on their contribution in freedom struggle. The politicians were just evolving and now you could see a Manohar Parikkar or Seetharaman !

  12. Shankar is obviously from the SC/ST regiment armed with a broom. Come, let me show you how a gun works!

  13. If FM Manekshaw could tick off Indira Gandhi for being foolhardy and impetuous, then what was Jagjivan Ram in his presence?Sam Bahadur could also tell the then powerful defence secretary that he should not dare ask a colonel to open a window at the Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi!

  14. Present chief , very undeserving Army chief ,a creation by gen Suhag (mukander ka Sikander),is the one who would go to any extent to harm present Army (make unfit Army)in order to become a governor.On disability pension issue by CBDT to harm army,he has not spoken even a single word in support. Army is very unfortunate to have him as army chief .

  15. Fd Marshal Manekshaw was a soldier who led from the front. As a young Captain he was injured during the World War 2 in Burma, but he was operated upon and survived. He was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry on the battlefield. He is an ideal human being and a true “Bharat Ratna”. We must teach our younger generation to read and follow the life and conduct of this great person. He will inspire the future generations and in ‘nation building’.

  16. One side there was Manekshaw who could reply to the PM and DM.On the other hand we have another Gorkha officer as chief Gen Rawat who want army officers to buy upto 2500 cc top end cars under Rs 12 lakhs.In other words he has denied this facility to army.He can not speak a word for the welfare of the army.Very poor chief who has let down this Great army

  17. Well done Field martial manekshaw, these leaders deserves this kind of reply. They really dont know about armed forces. These kind of leaders had already pushed the country towards devastation by introducing SC/ST reservation in many fields. There should not b any type of reservation in fields such as armed forces, medical, engineering and science.

  18. Field Marshal Manekshaw was luck he had leaders like Ms Gandhi, Jagjivam Ram who did not take such comment seriously. If he made a similar comment he would have been called anti national and government would have some reason to punish him.

    • Dont disrespect Great Field Marshal Manekshaw.
      Politicians dont fight wars. I hope you know about armed forces. He was knowing his job very well !
      In fact DM made a utter hippocrasy regarding his pension.

    • What’s there to respect about Jagjivan Ram and what’s there to detest about Manekshaw? You need a brain surgery, Shankar.

    • Dont disrespect Great Field Marshal Manekshaw.
      Politicians dont fight wars. I hope you know about armed forces. He was knowing his job very well !
      In fact DM made a utter hippocrasy regarding his pension.

    • Mr Shankar, it seems you’ve shown your ignorance about FM Sam Manekshaw and matters military, and for that you’re not to be called out…. it’s your ignorance that needs to be called out.

    • Yes because you are too intellectually handicapped to understand the position of the Field Marshall when he handled the situation.

      Btw it’s poser, not poseur, if you had the slightest bit of inclination towards french then you would obviously understand that maneckshaw was a supreme commander, far beyond today’s sub-par officers. And yes if you readers find this aggravating, lol google the word aggravating first.

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