Book Review: The RigVeda

How many fires are there, how many suns?

How many dawns? How many waters?

I ask this, O fathers, not to challenge.

O Sages, I ask it to know

(RigVeda Book 10, hymn 88)

Full Disclosure: I have not actually read the entire RigVeda; all I did was read multiple hymns in each of the 10 books of the RigVeda. The hymns are (as expected) very repetitive, but they do give you a picture of the culture of the Indo-Europeans who came to India around 1800 BC (or so we believe these days, this may be adjusted as ancient DNA from Indian sites yields its secrets). It is a window (and probably the most complete and most ancient window we have) into the Indo-European world that played such a huge role in the creation of the present cultures of much of Eurasia, from Western Europe to India (and beyond). The book is thus a window into our own “heroic age”, so to speak and should be of interest to all, above and beyond their obvious status as shruti (heard, i.e. revealed, as opposed to composed by latter day humans) holy books in Hinduism.

The translation I read is by Indologist Ralph Griffith, who lived most of his life in India (he was the pincipal of Benares college in the Hindu holy city of Benares) and is buried in South India (i.e. one of those Englishmen who came to India and fell in love, or like JBS Haldane, fell in love and came to India). A more recent and scholarly translation is now available but is very expensive. This one is free and available in its entirety at this site:  (

In the original Sanskrit, the hymns are arranged in stanzas and follow particular rules of rhyme and meter (hear a sample at the end of this review). They are meant to be memorized (with extreme fidelity to the text and its correct pronunciation) and then sung/recited (as they still are), in religious ceremonies and sacrifices to the Gods.  In this sense, my use of them as a “window into the heroic age” has little to do with their use and status in Hinduism. But then, I am not a Hindu (unless we are following Savarkar’s definition, in which case I guess I am a little bit Hindu too). Anyhow, on with the review. Continue reading “Book Review: The RigVeda”

Review: From the Ruins of Empire; The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia

This was a long rolling rant I wrote 5 years ago while reading Pankaj Mishra’s book “From The Ruins of Empire; The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia“. The format is that I commented as I read the book. So early parts are comments on early chapters and so on. Quotes from Pankaj are in bolded italics. I am reposting today after editing it a little because the topic came up once again.

Spoiler Alert. since the “review” is really a very long rolling rant, written as I read the book, some people may just want to know this one fact: this books is NOT about the intellectuals who remade Asia. That book would have to start with people like Aizawa in Japan, the first Asian nation to be “remade”, but that is one nation and one set of thinkers you will not find in this book. Why? because this book is not about Asia, its history or its renaissance, it is about post-liberal virtue signaling. For details, read on..

Introduction: After being told that everyone from Orhan Pamuk to Pakistani Ambassador (and liberal feminist Jinnahist icon) Sherry Rahman is in love with Pankaj Mishra’s new book I have finally started reading it.
I have only read 50 pages so far but it is beginning to set a certain tone. And its not a very encouraging one. I am not impressed. At all. So Far.

On  page 18 he says: the word Islam, describing the range of Muslim beliefs and  practices, was not used before the 19th century. 

This is then negated on the very next page by Mishra himself. The only explanation for this little nugget is that Pankaj knows his audience and will miss no opportunity to slide in some politically correct red meat for his audience. There is a vague sense “out there” in liberal academia that Islam is unfairly maligned as monolithic and even that the label itself may be “Islamophobic”. Pankaj wants to let people know that he has no such incorrect beliefs. It is a noble impulse and it recurs. A lot. Continue reading “Review: From the Ruins of Empire; The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia”

The Indian Political Service (Raj era)

There is not much known about Indian Political Service (IPS); a service that was involved in three important areas of Empire.  It was part of indirect control of Indian states, frontier areas and peripheral areas of the Empire in Persia and Persian Gulf states.  Following was part of an exchange on the subject.


Indian Political Service (IPS) is a very little studied subject.  My two cents worth comments bolded in the main text.  Hope that adds some additional flavor to a savory dish.




By Maj Gen Syed Ali Hamid (Retd)


Syed Shahid Hamid was commissioned from Sandhurst in 1933 and joined 3rd Cavalry a recently Indianised regiment in which he spent six years. The second half of this term were not easy as he did not get along well with the second-in-command who was subsequently promoted to command the regiment. Since there were no vacancies for Indian officers in the other two Indianised cavalry regiments, Shahid sought an entry onto the hallowed ranks of the Indian Political Service (IPS).

The IPS was the cadre of officers which dealt with the Princely States and foreign affairs of the Government of British India. Its genesis lay in a department which was created in 1783 by the East India Company for conducting “secret and political business”. Since in the India of that period Persian was the language of diplomatic correspondence, the head of the department was known as the ‘Persian Secretary’. Its primary responsibility was dealing with the Princely States through British Residents appointed from the Department. It also housed the officers of British India’s diplomatic service i.e. its emissaries to the countries surrounding India and the Trucial States in the Gulf. (The early organization performed various functions including intelligence gathering, diplomatic and foreign affairs.  The Secret & Political Department established in 1784 had three branches; secret, political & foreign. This set up remained in place until 1842.  In 1843, the name was changed to Foreign Department.  In 1914, it was named Foreign & Political Department of the Government of India. In 1937, the title was changed to Indian Political Service.)The IPS cadre was generally referred to as Political Officers, or colloquially as “politicals”. Some famous names in the history of the Middle East served as Political Officers including Sir Percy Coxs who masterminded the British policy in this region during the First World War. (on frontier, the name ‘poltical’ in Pushto still generates an aura among tribesmen although they fondly remember British officers of a bygone era.) Continue reading “The Indian Political Service (Raj era)”

Indian genetics, the never-ending argument

I am at this point somewhat fatigued by Indian population genetics. The real results are going to be ancient DNA, and I’m waiting on that. But people keep asking me about an article in Swarajya, Genetics Might Be Settling The Aryan Migration Debate, But Not How Left-Liberals Believe.

First, the article attacks me as being racist. This is not true. The reality is that the people who attack me on the Left would probably attack magazines like Swarajya as highly “problematic” and “Islamophobic.” They would label Hindu nationalism as a Nazi derivative ideology. People should be careful the sort of allies they make, if you dance with snakes they will bite you in the end. Much of the media lies about me, and the Left constantly attacks me. I’m OK with that because I do believe that the day will come with all the ledgers will be balanced. The Far Left is an enemy of civilization of all stripes. I welcome being labeled an enemy of barbarians. My small readership, which is of diverse ideologies and professions, is aware of who I am and what I am, and that is sufficient. Either truth or power will be the ultimate arbiter of justice.

With that out of the way, there this one thing about the piece that I think is important to highlight:

To my surprise, it turned out that that Joseph had contacted Chaubey and sought his opinion for his article. Chaubey further told me he was shocked by the drift of the article that appeared eventually, and was extremely disappointed at the spin Joseph had placed on his work, and that his opinions seemed to have been selectively omitted by Joseph – a fact he let Joseph know immediately after the article was published, but to no avail.

Indeed, this itself would suggest there are very eminent geneticists who do not regard it as settled that the R1a may have entered the subcontinent from outside. Chaubey himself is one such, and is not very pleased that Joseph has not accurately presented the divergent views of scholars on the question, choosing, instead to present it as done and dusted.

I do wish Tony Joseph had quoted Gyaneshwer Chaubey’s response, and I’d like to know his opinions. Science benefits from skepticism. Unfortunately though the equivocation of science is not optimal for journalism, so oftentimes things are presented in a more stark and clear manner than perhaps is warranted. I’ve been in this position myself, when journalists are just looking for a quote that aligns with their own views. It’s frustrating.

There are many aspects of the Swarajya piece I could point out as somewhat weak. For example:

The genetic data at present resolution shows that the R1a branch present in India is a cousin clade of branches present in Europe, Central Asia, Middle East and the Caucasus; it had a common ancestry with these regions which is more than 6000 years old, but to argue that the Indian R1a branch has resulted from a migration from Central Asia, it should be derived from the Central Asian branch, which is not the case, as Chaubey pointed out.

The Srubna culture, the Scythians, and the people of the Altai today, all bear the “Indian” branch of R1a. First, these substantially post-date 6000 years ago. I think that that is likely due to the fact that South Asian R1a1a-Z93 and that of the Sbruna descend from a common ancestor. But in any case, the nature of the phylogeny of Z93 indicates rapid expansion and very little phylogenetic distance between the branches. Something happened 4-5,000 years ago. One could imagine simultaneous expansions in India and Central Asia/Eastern Europe. Or, one could imagine an expansion from a common ancestor around that time. The latter seems more parsimonious.

Additionally, while South Asians share ancestry with people in West Asia and Eastern Europe, these groups do not have distinctive South Asian (Ancestral South Indian) ancestry. This should weight out probabilities as to the direction of migration.

Second, I read some of the papers linked to in the article, such as Shared and Unique Components of Human Population Structure and Genome-Wide Signals of Positive Selection in South Asia and Y-chromosomal sequences of diverse Indian populations and the ancestry of the Andamanese. The first paper has good data, but I’ve always been confused by the interpretations. For example:

A few studies on mtDNA and Y-chromosome variation have interpreted their results in favor of the hypothesis,70–72 whereas others have found no genetic evidence to support it.3,6,73,74 However, any nonmarginal migration from Central Asia to South Asia should have also introduced readily apparent signals of East Asian ancestry into India (see Figure 2B). Because this ancestry component is absent from the region, we have to conclude that if such a dispersal event nevertheless took place, it occurred before the East Asian ancestry component reached Central Asia. The demographic history of Central Asia is, however, complex, and although it has been shown that demic diffusion coupled with influx of Turkic speakers during historical times has shaped the genetic makeup of Uzbeks75 (see also the double share of k7 yellow component in Uzbeks as compared to Turkmens and Tajiks in Figure 2B), it is not clear what was the extent of East Asian ancestry in Central Asian populations prior to these events.

Actually the historical and ancient DNA evidence both point to the fact that East Asian ancestry arrived in the last two thousand years. The spread of the first Gokturk Empire, and then the documented shift in the centuries around 1000 A.D. from Iranian to Turkic in what was Turan, signals the shift toward an East Asian genetic influx. Alexander the Great and other Greeks ventured into Central Asia. The people were described as Iranian looking (when Europeans encountered Turkic people like Khazars they did note their distinctive physical appearance).

We have ancient DNA from the Altai, and those individuals initially seemed overwhelmingly West Eurasian. Now that we have Scythian ancient DNA we see that they mixed with East Asians only on the far east of their range.

The second paper is very confused (or confusing):

The time divergence between Indian and European Y-chromosomes, based on the closest neighbour analysis, shows two different distinctive divergence times for J2 and R1a, suggesting that the European ancestry in India is much older (>10 kya) than what would be expected from a recent migration of Indo-European populations into India (~4 to 5 kya). Also the proportions suggest the effect might be less strong than generally assumed for the Indo-European migration. Interestingly, the ANI ancestry was recently suggested to be a mix of ancestries from early farmers of western Iran and people of the Bronze Age Eurasian steppe (Lazaridis et al. 2016). Our results agree with this suggestion. In addition, we also show that the divergence time of this ancestry is different, suggesting a different time to enter India.

Lazaridis et al. accept a mass migration from the steppe. In fact, the migration is to such a magnitude that I’m even skeptical. Also, there couldn’t have been a European migration to South Asia during the Pleistocene because Europeans as we understand them genetically did not exist then!!!

I assume that many of the dates of coalescence are sensitive to parameter conditions. Additionally, they admit limitations to their sampling.

Ultimately the final story will be more complex than we can imagine. R1a is too widespread to be explained by a simple Indo-Aryan migration in my opinion. But we can’t get to these genuine conundrums if we keep having to rebut ideologically motivated salvos.

Related: Ancient herders from the Pontic-Caspian steppe crashed into India: no ifs or buts. I wish David would be a touch more equivocal. But I have to admit, if the model fits, at some point you have to quit.

Aamir Khan’s Dangal Takes China by Storm

Pakistani academic and ex-diplomat Aamir Khan is an old friend, and he recently wrote a piece on why Dangal is such a hit in China.
What do you think?


But why did the Chinese fall in love with this movie? Firstly, no country in the world is more sensitive, even obsessed about the achievement of its children than China. The gaokao or university entrance examinations are a case in point. Mothers actually take their offspring to nearby hotels so that the child does not have to travel. They even block adjoining roads so that horn-noise does not distract the examinees. No amount of funds is enough and no level of effort is satisfactory to prepare these children for the future. The movie catches this collective nerve perfectly.
For Chinese viewers, even the slim-fat Aamir Khan reflects control over one’s body. That this is achieved through sheer hard discipline is both magical and achievable. Like China’s own success

At the same time, many Chinese children are being spoilt by the 4-2-1 syndrome. This refers to four grandparents, two parents and one grandchild — the latter has neither siblings nor first cousins. All six parents and grandparents spend money to pamper the “little emperors”. Thus when Aamir Khan cuts his daughters’ hair so that they can fight better, or makes them run for miles, this fits perfectly into the Chinese parental mental grooves. Fed up with Korean soaps, featuring feminized males with long nails, plucked eye-brows and rose-petal lips, Chinese parents have taken their children in droves to Dangal not only to motivate them but also to shame them.

Then, the movie itself is a metaphor for China. Like the future champions but now-penurious village girls who cannot afford to eat even chicken, China has overcome incredible odds to rise from poverty in 1978 to become a politically-stable economic juggernaut that is proud to assume international leadership. Dangal is China itself. No sky is high enough for the Chinese spirit. For Chinese viewers, even the slim-fat Aamir Khan reflects control over one’s body, achieved through sheer hard discipline is both magical and achievable. Like China’s own success.

A preview of Indo-Pak cooperation in Uganda

I received a random salesman call from two brown dudes.

One of them (M) had been calling me the past few days trying to set up a meeting. He had been “sirring” me a fair bit and on the third time they managed to come to our offices.
Turns out even though he’s Gujarati Brahmin (I could tell the surname) he looks like a rather familiar North Indian accountant, the type we get somewhat used to. He was very techie and very solicitous.
As I walk into the meeting I notice the darker chap and assume because of his curly hair he must have been South Indian. Turns out he has a Muslim name (A) and upon my asking how long the company has been in Uganda (5yrs+) I ask if it’s an Indian company.
Turns out to my surprise it’s originally Pakistani (I find it a bit odd that an Indian is working for Pakis, but a job is a job I guess).
At any rate turns out A is of course Pakistani and as I sit in that short meeting it dawns on me the almost perfect illustration of Indo-Pak cooperation and stereotypes. Indian accountant in a suit, obsequious looks techie and money.
The Paki had obviously done something to his hair (in Uganda making those curls is called texturising) and was wearing a River Island shirt (we’re not even in Kampala proper) with a slight American twinge (I doubt he was the son of the founder but an aspiring relative so the American accent is grafted on).
I don’t know if Paks are the cool kids of the subcontinent (apparently the Sri Lankans have the most swag in london) but at a few moments in the meeting I couldn’t keep from smiling as the paki went and on with the sale.
Are Paks the natural salesman of South Asia, are Indians more technically gifted I have no idea but when stereotypes slap you in the face, sometime you have no choice but to smile along.. Oh and we might just buy the product.. 

the 14th Ferozepur Sikh regiment…and some others

Continuing the tradition of posting Dr Hamid Hussain’s occasional emails about Indian military history (and very sad at having lost the previous posts that were in the old Brown Pundits):

Dear All;
A good friend from India asked questions about details of 14 Sikhs in WWI and role of Indian Medical Service (IMS); not much written about IMS.  There were some other questions about Sikh recruitment in British Indian army especially caste issue.  Following piece was consolidation of answers of these queries.  My digging of military archeology is only for those interested in history.  I personally have a lot of fun doing this though quite tiring.  
14th Ferozepore Sikhs
Hamid Hussain
14th Ferozepore Sikhs was raised in 1846 after First Anglo-Sikh War from demobilized soldiers of Sikh army.  It was raised by Captain G. Tebbs and recruits came mainly from cis-Sutlej area.  Regiment recruited local Sikhs and Punjabi Muslims.  Initially, Oudh Rajputs from other regiments were posted to the regiment.  In 1852, Tebbs died and Captain T. E. Colebrooke took command.  In 1857 Mutiny, regiment was in Mirzapur.  Few days before the uprising about four hundred men under the dynamic command of Lieutenant Jeremiah Brasyer were sent to Allahabad and few days later they were instrumental in saving the fort.  Brasyer was the founding father of the regiment.  He spoke Punjabi and in 1846, he toured cis-Sutlej area and was instrumental in encouraging Sikhs to join the new regiment.  He was an amazing character.  He was a gardener and enlisted in Bengal artillery.  Few years later he was appointed Sergeant Major of 26th Bengal Native Infantry.  He fought in First Anglo-Afghan War of 1842 and First Anglo-Sikh War of 1846.   He was given commission and appointed Ensign at the age of thirty-three and served as interpreter during the raising of 14th Ferozepore Sikhs.  The regiment was later known by his name as Brasyer’s Sikhs. 
During mutiny, with the breakdown of general order, soldiers of 14th Ferozepore Sikhs got hold of all the liquor from cantonment and city of Allahabad.  They periodically got drunk and discipline was seriously compromised.  British position was still precarious and they have to act tactfully.  They bought all the liquor from Sikhs at asking price and later transferred them from the fort to a nearby building.  During Mutiny, regiment joined Henry Havelock’s relief of Cawnpore and Lucknow. In the hot weather, soldiers discarded their regular uniform and donned red turbans.  British officers including their commander Brasyer also wore red turbans.  In honor of this service, regiment was allowed to wear red turbans and later the whole Sikh regiment adopted the red turban; a tradition still continued in Sikh regiment of Indian army. 

Regiment participated in many expeditions on North West Frontier.  In 1863 Ambela Expedition, regiment under the command of Major Ross and Subedar Major Sikandar Khan participated in some sanguine battles.  In 1877, regiment participated in Jowaki Expedition operating in Bori valley.  In 1878, regiment participated in Second Anglo-Afghan War under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Williams.  Regiment was decimated not by enemy fire but by an epidemic of typhoid fever killing 200 men.  In 1881, regiment participated in Waziristan operation.  In 1884, Lieutenant Colonel George Nicholas Channer V.C. took command of the regiment.  He was originally from 1st Gurkha Rifles.  Channer family had long association with Indian army and especially Sikhs.  His father Colonel George Girdwood Channer served with Bengal Artillery.  His brother Colonel Bernard Channer DSO served with 2nd Native Infantry and Rajput Light Infantry.  Bernard’s three sons served in Indian army.  Guy Channer DSO served with 14th Sikhs and commanded the battalion in 1918, Bernard Gordon with 54th Sikhs (later 4/12 Frontier Force Regiment and now 6 Frontier Force Regiment of Pakistan army) and Keith Francis with 30th Jacob’s Horse.  In 1888, regiment fought in Black Mountain expedition under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Ellis, Chitral expedition in 1895, Tochi Field Force in 1897 and went to China in 1900 during Boxer rebellion. 
In 1866, Punjabi Muslims were phased out and regiment became a single class regiment of Sikhs.  It is important to understand Sikh recruitment in British Indian army.  Sikh religious and social transformation in nineteenth century resulted in retreat of Khatri and rise of Jat Sikhs.  There is no caste system in Sikh religious doctrine and all are considered equal.  However, in reality there existed a clear class hierarchy in descending order of Jat, Khatri, Arora, Lobana, Ramgarhia and Ahluwalia.  Jats were sitting on the top of the pyramid and didn’t mingle with other classes.  British had to consider this during recruitment therefore only Jat Sikhs were recruited for single class regiments as well as class companies.  Other Sikh castes were recruited in separate regiments. 
Lobana Sikhs were recruited mainly in pioneer regiments (48th Pioneers) as well as some Punjab regiments.  British policy of insisting on strict adherence to Sikh religious code for its military recruits resulted in solidification of Sikh identity.  This also helped in significant conversion of Lobana Hindus to Sikhism with resultant marked reduction of Lobana Hindus in Punjab.  Twin benefits of military service and allotment of agricultural lands helped in upward social mobility of Lobanas.  Due to their first class performance in First World War, in 1922 reorganization, it was decided to have at least one company of Lobana Sikhs in each pioneer battalion.  In 1932, when pioneer regiments were disbanded, Lobana Sikhs were recruited in mountain batteries of artillery as well as constituting machine gun platoons of some infantry regiments.  Some Lobanas from disbanded pioneer regiments were transferred to Bengal and Bombay Sappers & Miners. 
Low caste Sikhs called Mazhabi and Ramdasia (M & R) Sikhs were at the bottom ring of the social ladder and they also looked towards army for upward social mobility.  They were mainly recruited in 23rd, 32nd and 34thPioneers.  A very small number served with Royal Bombay Sappers & Miners.  Pioneers were a specialized infantry that was extremely useful in frontier expeditions.  34th Pioneers earned the ‘Royal’ title for their stellar performance in First World War.  In 1932, when pioneer regiments were disbanded, only a very small number of M & R Sikhs remained in army.  About 320 M & R Sikhs were transferred to Bengal and Bombay Sappers & Miners.  Initially, all Sikhs were mixed in Sappers & Miners regiments but problems between high and low caste Sikhs especially the tricky issue of M & R Sikhs attending Jat Gurdwaras of the regiments resulted in segregation.  All Jat Sikhs went to Bengal Sappers & Miners while Lobana and M & R Sikhs to Bombay Sappers & Miners. 
In Second World War Mazhabi & Ramdasia (M & R) Regiment was re-raised from elements of earlier disbanded pioneer regiments.  Several old British officers of disbanded pioneer regiments were instrumental in raising M & R regiment.  1st M & R regiment was raised in Jullundur in October 1941 by Lieutenant Colonel C. H. Price.  Price was from 32nd Pioneers and after disbandment went to 2/12 Frontier Force Regiment.  Second in Command Major E. P. F. Pearse was from 34th Pioneers and had gone to 3/2 Punjab Regiment.  Subedar Major Jewan Singh was from 32nd Pioneers.  9/15 Punjab Regiment and 7/17 Dogra Regiment provided initial lot of native officers and other ranks for the raising of the regiment.  1st M & R fought in Burma theatre.  Later two more M & R battalions and some garrison companies were raised.  M & R Regiment was later re-named Sikh Light Infantry (SLI). 
In First World War, 14th Sikhs served in Gallipoli and Mesopotamian theatres where battalion suffered heavy casualties. In Gallipoli, 14th Sikhs was part of 29th Indian Brigade (other battalions were 69th and 89th Punjabis and 1/6th Gurkha Rifles).  Lieutenant Colonel Philip C. Palin was CO, Lieutenant Cremen Adjutant, Lieutenant Meade Quarter Master and Lieutenant Matthew Machine Gun Officer.  Indian officers included Subedar Major Jaswant Singh and Subedars Thakur Singh, Prem Singh and Kartar Singh.  Battalion’s Medical Officer was Cursetjee and sweeper Channi. Battalion suffered heavy casualties in the Third Battle of Krithia in June 1915 with over three hundred and seventy killed and wounded.  At one time, all officers were killed and wounded and only Second Lieutenant Reginald Arthur Savory remained unscathed and took temporary command of the battalion (he was wounded later and at Lt. Colonel rank commanded the battalion by then renamed 1/11 Sikhs and retired as Lieutenant General).  Battalion was reinforced with two double companies of Patiala Imperial Service Infantry, drafts from India and from other Punjabi regimens and Burma police battalions.  Battalion earned the distinction of winning 35 Indian Distinguished Service Medals (IDSMs) in Gallipoli campaign. 
In Mesopotamia, battalion guarded line of communications of I Corps and served with 51st Brigade. Commanding Officer was Lieutenant Colonel Earle and Subedar Major Sham Singh.  They were succeeded by Major Guy Channer and Subedar Major Narain Singh.  Battalion suffered 61 killed in action and 250 wounded.  Among the wounded was Captain George Francis Bunbury whose father Lieutenant Colonel W. E. Bunbury (originally from 28th Punjabis) had commanded the battalion from 1902-6.  Influenza epidemic decimated the battalion killing 300 men; a de ja vu of 1878 when Typhoid fever took more toll than enemy’s bullets.  Battalion has a unique distinction of having winners of gallantry awards even among its medical officers.  Battalion’s Medical Officer Captain Cursetjee won a DSO while Sub Assistant Surgeon Bhagwan Singh won Indian Order of Merit (IOM) in Mesopotemia.  Heerajee Jehangir Manockjee Cursetjee was awarded DSO in 1918 for gallantry and devotion to service when he attended to wounded soldiers despite being wounded himself.  He retired as Major General.
Indian Medical Service (IMS) was the first branch of Indian army that opened its doors to Indians as King Commissioned Officers.  One the eve of First World War, many Indian officers were serving with IMS.  In addition to Cursetjee, two other IMS officers; Captain (later Colonel) Phirozshah Byramji Bharucha and Captain (later Lieutenant Colonel) Nilkanth Shriram Jatar also won DSO in Great War.  Jatar is the most decorated IMS officer.  He won his first DSO in June 1917 in Mesopotamia when serving as medical officer of 16 Cavalry.  He won bar to DSO during Waziristan operation in 1920 when serving as medical officer of 2/76th Punjabis.  He was severely wounded at Kotkai (in 2008 Pakistan army fought battle at the same location.  In fact, Pakistan army and paramilitary scouts fought many battles with militants at almost all previous battlefields of frontier warfare a century ago) during the withdrawal and lost his leg.  IMS officers introduced their young children to military life and children of many of these pioneer officers of IMS joined Indian army.  Jatar’s three sons joined armed forces; Major General Sudhir Jatar, Brigadier Arvind Jatar (Central India Horse) and Air Vice Marshal Jairam Jatar. Children of another IMS officer Lieutenant Colonel Mohamed Abdur Rahman also opted for army after their education in England.  Atiq ur Rahman ‘Turk’ joined 4/12 Frontier Force Regiment, opted for Pakistan in 1947 and became Lieutenant General in Pakistan army.  Turk’s brother Attaur Rahman after serving with a Frontier Force Regiment battalion joined Indian Foreign Service.  He decided to stay in India and served as Indian ambassador to several countries.
 In 1922 reorganization, 14th Ferozepore Sikhs was designated Ist Battalion of 11th Sikh Regiment.  Ist, 2nd and 3rd battalions of 11th Sikh Regiment were single class Jat Sikh battalions while 4th, 5th and 10th battalions were composed of two Jat Sikh and two Punjabi Muslim companies.  In 1945, Naik Nand Singh of 1/11 Sikh Regiment won Victoria Cross (VC) in Burma.
In 1947, Indian army was divided between India and Pakistan.  Most battalions were composed of class companies or squadrons and they were exchanged between two countries.  Ist Battalion of Ist Punjab Regiment was assigned to Pakistan and it consisted of Sikh A Company, Hazarawal Muslims B company, Punjabi Muslims C Company and Rajput D Company.  Sikh and Rajput companies of the battalion went to India.  Sikh A company was assigned to 1/11 Sikh then stationed at Gurgaon.  In the terrible times of communal hatred when Muslims and Sikhs were killing each other, it is amazing to note that the regimental bond was still vibrant and solid as a rock.  Former Commanding Officer of 1/1 Punjab Colonel Sher Ali Khan Pataudi was in Delhi waiting to go to Pakistan to join Pakistan army.  Battalion’s former Subedar Major Feroz Khan was also in Delhi.  When they came to know that the Sikh company of 1/1 Punjab was in Gurgaon in the process of joining 1/11 Sikh, they decided to visit their former comrades.  While their fellow co-religionists were killing each other Pataudi and Feroz were entertained by Sikhs of 1/1 Punjab with the farewell dinner and karha parsad (a sweet offering to visitors as a sign of hospitality) and many wet eyes.
 1/11 Sikh played crucial role in securing Kashmir for India in 1947-48.  Pakistani tribesmen and some regular troops had captured the town of Baramula and were on the doorsteps of Srinagar.   On October 26, Indian leaders decided to send Indian troops to Kashmir.  1/11 Sikh was the first battalion air lifted to Kashmir.  Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Dewan Ranjit Rai was informed to bring his troops to Palam air filed in Delhi for air lift on early morning October 27.  Two companies of the battalion were on internal security duties.  Rai took C and D companies along with battalion headquarters with instructions that remaining two companies follow later.  Rai had no idea about the task and at the airfield he was given operational orders.  Ground situation was very fluid with very limited information and no one even knew the extent of Pakistani advance.  Rai was instructed to land at Srinagar airport and secure the airfield.  In case, there was no response from Srinagar tower or if it had already fallen, then he was to go to Jammu and grab any kind of transport and try to go as close to Srinagar by road. 
On landing at Srinagar, Rai sent C company under the command of Captain Karamjit Singh towards Baramula and it reached Mile 32.  D Company under Major Harwant Singh did a flag march in Srinagar and then sent reinforcement to C company.  Rai had no communication with his troops as the plane carrying battalion’s signal platoon developed a problem and had to divert to Jammu (signal platoon joined three days later).  Faced with this dilemma, Rai decided to join his forward troops.  At Mile 32, tribesmen failing to dislodge the Sikhs outflanked them and tried to cut off their rear.  Rai arranged for the extrication of his troops and was killed in action.  Major Harwant Singh took temporary command and later Colonel (later Lieutenant General) Harbkhash Singh (originally from 5/11 Sikhs) took command of the battalion.  Rai was a firs rate officer originally commissioned in 5/11 Sikhs.  He was from the Pakistani town of Gujranwala.  His grandson Shivjit Shergill and great grandson Fareed Shergill served in Indian armored corps (Central India Horse).
 In December 1947, battalion lost its Victoria Cross (VC) winner Jamadar Nand Singh in Kashmir.  His body was never found.  He was awarded Maha Vir Chakra (MVC) posthumously making him the most decorated soldier of Indian army.  1 Sikh was instrumental in saving Srinagar for India and rightfully earned 59 gallantry awards.  Their valor was acknowledged by declaring October 27 as ‘Infantry Day’ for Indian army.  In 1962 Indo-China war, 1 Sikh fought in Towang sector.  Battalion had over 170 casualties including 132 killed in action.  Among the dead included their Commanding Officer (CO) Lieutenant Colonel B. N. Mehta and Subedar Jogindar Singh.  In 1965 Indo-Pakistan war, 1 Sikh was in Titwal sector of Kashmir and involved in some minor operations. 
In 1979, Mechanized Infantry Regiment was raised and many old infantry battalions were converted to mechanized infantry and allotted new numbers.  1 Sikh became 4th Mechanized Infantry regiment.  Mechanized Infantry regiments are mixed class and 1 Sikh lost its all Sikh character on its re-incarnation as 4th Mechanized Infantry.  1 Sikh traded its red turban for black beret in transformation to 4th Mechanized Infantry regiment; however it is carrying on 170 years of traditions. 
–        The 14th, King George’s Own Sikhs : the 1st Battalion (K.G.O.) (Ferozepore Sikhs), the 11th Sikh Regiment, 1846-1933 by Colonel F.E.G. Talbot, 1937
–        1st King George V’s Own Battalion, the Sikh Regiment. The 14th King George’s Own Ferozepore Sikhs. 1846-1946 by Lieutenant-General P. G. Bamford, 1948
–        M & R: A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 1941-1947 by J. D. Hookway. 
–        The Sikh Regiment by D. S. Sandhu,
–        The Story of Soldiering and Politics in India and Pakistan by Major General Sher Ali Khan Pataudi, 1978
Hamid Hussain
February 28, 2014