Sex and the British-Indian Army

From Dr Hamid Hussain.

Some have asked questions about sexuality during the Raj as related to the army.  Enjoy.

Hamid

When British arrived in India, India was sexually more liberal than Europe. Heterosexual and homosexual relations were common, open and celebrated in poetry and paintings.  Concubines were a common phenomenon practiced by all religious and ethnic groups.  In contrast, there was quite strict sexual repression in Victorian England.  There are two aspects of sexual relations; one relating to British soldiers and second British officers. In eighteenth and nineteenth century India, prostitution was legal and well-regulated in British controlled India.  In 1850s, there were seventy five military districts and in every district prostitution was supervised by authorities.  Doctors of Indian Medical Service (IMS) were responsible for regulating brothels.  All prostitutes were registered, minimum age for prostitutes was fifteen and women were provided with their own living quarters or tents that were regularly inspected.  Some establishments were quite large and brothel in Lucknow had fifty five rooms.  Prostitutes infected with sexually transmitted diseases were removed and not allowed to practice their trade until recovered.  Both native and European soldiers used these bazaars; however sepoys were discouraged to visit those prostitutes preferred by European soldiers.  Most British soldiers were from lower strata of the society and were not held to the standard of a British officer.  British soldiers visited prostitutes more often than sepoys.  One reason was that British soldiers were not married while sepoys were usually married men.   These bazaars were called ‘lal bazaars’ (red streets).  Both heterosexual and homosexual relations were common.  British regiments spent several years in India and many a times children were born of such relationships.  Special houses and schools were assigned as early as eighteenth century for these children.  Continue reading “Sex and the British-Indian Army”

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Major General Akbar Khan

From Dr Hamid Hussain. A short note on Major General Akbar Khan (of Kashmir Jihad and Rawalpindi conspiracy fame)

Akbar Khan (1912-1994) was a Pathan from Charsadda area of Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa.  He was from the pareech khel clan of Muhammadzai tribe that inhabits the village of Utmanzai.  Akbar was from the last batch of Indian officers commissioned from Royal Military College Sandhurst in February 1934.  Lieutenant General B.M. Kaul ‘Bijji’ was his course mate at Sandhurst and they became friends during their service.  Officers commissioned from Sandhurst were called King Commissioned Indian Officers (KCIOs).  Akbar joined 6/13 Frontier Force Rifles (FFRif.).  This battalion is now One Frontier Force (FF) Regiment of Pakistan army.  He fought Second World War with 14/13 FFRif. (now15 FF).  This was a new war time battalion raised in April 1941, at Jhansi.  In new war time raised battalions, officers and men were posted from different battalions, usually from the same regimental group.  Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Felix-Williams, DSO, MC of 1/13 FFRis. was the first Commanding Officer (CO).  There were fourteen officers in the battalion and Akbar at the rank of Major was the senior most of the four Indian officers of the battalion.   Lieutenants H. H. Khan, Fazl-e-Wahid Khan and A.K. Akram were other Indian officers (Wahid won MC).  Battalion was part of 100th Brigade (other battalions of the brigade included 2 Borderers and 4/10 Gurkha Rifles) of 20th Division commanded by Major General Douglas Gracey.  Continue reading “Major General Akbar Khan”

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Book Review: The Stan

Dead Reckoning is a (fairly new) imprint of the Naval Institute Press that publishes military-themed graphic novels and books (e.g. they have published “All Quiet on the Western Front” as a graphic novel).   The Stan is a comic book based on stories collected by two American journalists (autors Kevin Knodell and David Axe) who have spent a long time covering the war in Afghanistan. The only story not based on their work is the opening chapter, which is a comic based on the life and words of former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Abdus Salam Zaeef. They use this first comic as a capsule history of the background to this war as well as a prediction of its futility and eventual failure.  This is the only comic that gives a nod, albeit a minimalistic and relatively simple one, to the “big picture” of the Afghan war and it is a strictly anti-war and anti-interventionist one. The other comics are all about the “little people”, ordinary soldiers, an Afghan interpreter, an Afghan soldier and an Afghan policeman. The last comic is about one of the authors (Kevin Knodell), who may have some PTSD, and his parting words are that “America’s longest war was going to stretch on longer”. Continue reading “Book Review: The Stan”

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Review: Raiders of the China Coast

Raiders of the China Coast is the account of a little known CIA operation that trained and managed anti-communist guerrillas and agents on the various islands that were retained by the Taiwanese regime (the “Republic of China”) after the Chinese mainland was captured by the Chinese communists. The author, Frank Holober, spent his life in the CIA and later in several academic institutions teaching about China. The book is one of the few memoirs written by people who personally took part in various CIA covert operations on the “hot” fringes of the cold war and has been vetted by the agency to ensure that no secrets are spilled (the author thanks some in the agency for approving it, and criticizes others for needless bureaucratic obstruction and “security theater”, but he got a foreword from General Robert Barrow, USMC, who had served with Frank (and the CIA) in the 1950s, so it is all good).

The book is mostly a fond look back at the author’s male-bonding days, not a detailed history of CIA covert operations during the Korean war (which is the somewhat misleading subtitle of the book). As the author relates in the first chapter (“Old Haunts Beckon”), the idea of the book came to him after he retired and revisited Taiwan after a gap of 40 years and was reminded of the days of youthful adventure and excitement he had spent there with his CIA comrades in “Western Enterprises Inc”; that nostalgia is clearly the main driver of the book. Which is fine, because while his family and friends (and those of the other adventurers he mentions in the book) will no doubt get an extra-special thrill from reading the book, other readers can also learn about an interesting aspect of the early cold war, about CIA covert operations in general, about the colorful characters who took part in these events, about China and it’s fascinating recent history, and of course, about male-bonding, buddy movies and all that jazz.  Continue reading “Review: Raiders of the China Coast”

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Pakistan and the Great War

From Dr Hamid Hussain

2018 is centenary of the end of the Great War. This piece was written for a magazine published in England about Indian military history. I tried to highlight participation of areas and units of future Pakistan army in that epic struggle to honor countless who served all over the globe.

Hamid

Pakistan and the Great War

Hamid Hussain

“We know that it was not strategy nor tactics nor leadership that really gained us the victory, but the spirit of sacrifice”. General Sir William Birdwood’s address on unveiling of the Punjab Frontier Force (PIFFER) Memorial at Kohat October 23, 1924.

It is impossible to narrate the story of the Indian Army in the Great War on ethnic or religious lines as some modern observers are tempted to do. It is equally futile to attempt a “revisionist” narrative through the nationalist lens of modern India and Pakistan. What were then Indian soldiers of many different religious and ethnic backgrounds fought in the Great War under their regimental standards as imperial British subjects of the Indian Empire on a global battlefield.

In 1947, British India and its armed forces were divided between the two new nations of India and Pakistan. Punjab Province, which had provided the bulk of the old regular Indian Army, was carved up with a few strokes of the cartographer’s pen. Ambala and Jullundur divisions and Amritsar and Gurdaspur of the Lahore division became part of India. Punjabi Muslims, Muslim Rajputs and Pathans of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) became Pakistani citizens while Sikhs, Jats, Dogra and Rajput Hindus became Indian citizens. All of this cut across the traditional structures and allegiances of the old Indian Army, and the Great War experiences of men such as Subedar Major Parbhat Chand, a Hindu Dogra, who won a Military Cross fighting under the colours of the 59th Scinde Rifles, which would later become the 1st Frontier Force Regt. of the Pakistani Army, the many Punjabi Muslim sepoys who served under the colours of the 125th Napier’s Rifles and 101st Grenadiers which were allotted to India in 1947, and medical officers Capt. Indrajit Singh of the 57th Rifles and Major Atal of the 129th Baluchistan Infantry who died alongside their Punjabi Muslim and Pathan comrades. While these and other factors discourage any attempt to interpret the conflict in light of the later partition of the subcontinent, there is no reason why the war-time experience of what is now Pakistan, especially the Punjab, should not be studied in the same way that, for example, the impact of the war on the north of England and regiments raised there are examined for insights. Continue reading “Pakistan and the Great War”

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Book Review: India’s Wars. A Military History 1947-1971

 

India’s wars by Air Vice Marshal Arjun Subramaniam is a history of the wars (external wars, not counter-insurgencies) fought by the Indian army from 1947 to 1971. It is a pretty good summary, but does have it’s weaknesses.

The book starts with a bit of the “pre-history” of the Indian army. Interestingly Subramaniam chooses to highlight two distinct streams that he believes should get credit for the internal culture and ethos of the Indian army. One is obvious: the British Indian army, which was the parent organization that was split (unequally) between Pakistan and India to create the Indian army. The second is an angle that would not have been included by an official observer/author in 1950, but that has obviously grown since then to the point that a Pucca Air Marshal gives it near-equal billing in his book: i.e. the armies of the Marhattas and the Sikhs. I think this reflects contemporary politics and cultural arguments in India more than it reflects the reality of the Indian army from 1947 to 1971, but will be happy to be corrected by people who have better direct knowledge of the Indian army in that period. Anyway, the author gives a quick and very brief account of the British Indian army. The origins and growth of that force are dealt with very quickly and summarily, but there is more details about developments closer to 1947. This is not a book that is heavy on relevant numerical data (i.e. this is not the sort of book where you get tables showing “The caste/religious/ethnic composition of the British Indian army from X to 1947”) and this is a weakness that persists throughout the book; the author is not big on tables or data. Perhaps as someone who grew up with some of that history, I did not find it detailed or insightful enough, but most readers may not mind this omission too much. And even if you are a British Indian army brat, the sections on the origins of the Royal Indian Air Force and the Royal Indian Navy are likely to add to your knowledge. Incidentally, many of the early aviators in the Indian air force seem to have Bengali surnames; the author does not comment on this, but I wonder if anyone has more information about this. If you do, please add in the comments section.

Continue reading “Book Review: India’s Wars. A Military History 1947-1971”

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Review: The Spy Chronicles

This is a review of “The Spy Chronicles” (not by me, but by our regular contributor Dr Hamid Hussain), a recent book co-authored by two former chiefs of ISI (the Pakistani intelligence agency) and RAW (the Indian intelligence agency). The book has generated some controversy (a lot of it far-fetched and irrational) and the Pakistani author (Retired General Asad Durrani) has been called to GHQ to provide an explanation and has been barred from leaving the country until an enquiry (conducted by a 3 star general) has been conducted.

The review is by Dr Hamid Hussain.

The full title is: Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace. A. S. Dulat, Assad Durrani and Aditya Sinha (Delhi: Harper Collins), 2018.

This book is neither a memoir nor an organized attempt to explain a theory. It is essentially a transcript of conversations. It covers India Pakistan relations, Kashmir, Afghanistan and other general regional and international topics. Two informed individuals from rival countries engaged in a candid conversation and some of their views are not fully in line with the official stance of their respective countries.
In view of unresolved issues between India and Pakistan, there have been several international attempts to bring high former officials of both countries together for dialogue. One effort was to bring former intelligence officials of both countries together. This effort called ‘Intel Dialogue’ was organized by the University of Ottawa. Dulat and Durrani met each other during these ‘Track II’ efforts and developed a kind of friendship. Continue reading “Review: The Spy Chronicles”

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Welcome back Mahathir Mohamad, Hero of Asia!

Welcome back Mahathir Mohamad, our favorite 92 year old PM of Malaysia! Malaysia was one of the centers of the great Arya civilization for thousands of years; now enriched by Confucianism, Taoism, Chinese Buddhism, Islam, and expats the world over. One of the most diverse and immigration friendly countries in the world. One of the most pro business, pro capitalist, pro globalization, pro neo-liberal, pro enlightenment values, and pro moderate Islam countries in the world. A country that fought against the full might of the Soviet Union, China and the global communist block and won. A shining city on a hill. A self assured, self confident Asian Tiger without inferiority complex. One of last great bastions resisting the global post modernist wave.

Continue reading “Welcome back Mahathir Mohamad, Hero of Asia!”

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The Philippines Genocide: 3 million Filipinos Killed

I guess “Holocaust Deniers” all over the world.

Just the excerpts from the reports during the period (Spanish American War 1898).20 dead filipinos

General Bell himself, who said “we estimated that we killed one-sixth of the population of the main island of Luzon—some 600,000 people.” (There is another Bell, George who also fought in the Philippines ).  Also see Gore Vidals reply on comment questioning the numbers.

The Philadelphia Ledger November 1901 their Manila correspondent wrote “The present war is no bloodless, opera bouffe engagement; our men have been relentless, have killed to exterminate men, women, children, prisoners and captives, active insurgents and suspected people from lads of ten up, the idea prevailing that the Filipino as such was little better than a dog…

Our soldiers have pumped salt water into men to make them talk, and have taken prisoners people who held up their hands and peacefully surrendered, and an hour later, without an atom of evidence to show that they were even insurrectos, stood them on a bridge and shot them down one by one, to drop into the water below and float down, as examples to those who found their bullet-loaded corpses.”

Another Marine officer described his testimony.

The major said that General Smith instructed him to kill and burn, and said that the more he killed and burned the better pleased he would be; that it was no time to take prisoners, and that he was to make Samar a howling wilderness. Major Waller asked General Smith to define the age limit for killing, and he replied “everyone over ten.”

 

Mark Twain wrote

“…I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the philippines. we have gone to conquer, not to redeem… and so i am an anti-imperialist. i am opposed to having the [american] eagle put its talons on any other land.”

On 15th of October 1900 Twain wrote the New York Times.

We have pacified some thousands of the islanders and buried them; destroyed their fields; burned their villages, and turned their widows and orphans out-of-doors; furnished heartbreak by exile to some dozens of disagreeable patriots; subjugated the remaining ten millions by Benevolent Assimilation, which is the pious new name of the musket; we have acquired property in the three hundred concubines and other slaves of our business partner, the Sultan of Sulu, and hoisted our protecting flag over that swag. And so, by these providences of god — and the phrase is the government’s, not mine — we are a World Power.” Mark Twain

 Please read the whole Post.  Interesting pictures.  Also President McKinley ‘s Christian reasons for the war.

The Philippines Genocide 3 million Filipinos Killed

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Eclipse of the Turkish Armed Forces

From Dr Hamid Hussain

Eclipse of Turkish Armed Forces

Hamid Hussain

“In Turkey, we have marriage of Islam and democracy.  The child of this marriage is secularism.  This child gets sick from time to time.  The Turkish armed forces are the doctor which saves the child.  Depending on how sick the child is, we administer the necessary medicine to make sure the child recuperates”.   General Cevik Bir; former Deputy Chief of General Staff of Turkish army

Turkish Armed Forces (known by the Turkish initials TSK – Turk Silahli Kuvvetleri) have gone through a dramatic change in the last two years.  In July 2016, a faction of TSK tried and failed to bring back TSK on the center stage of Turkey.  This failed coup attempt was the result of rapidly deteriorating relations between ruling Justice and Development Party (known by its Turkish initials AKP – Adalat ve Kalkinma Partisi) and TSK spanning over fifteen years.

TSK assigned itself the role of the guardian of the state and Kemalist tradition.  TSK had a key role in making decisions about national security, economy and foreign relations. Supreme Military Council (known by its Turkish initials YAS – Yuksek Askari Shura) was the instrument used for military’s dominance.  Civilian bureaucracy and judiciary dominated by secular elite were junior partners of TSK

In 1997, TSK forced removal of Islamist Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan what was later called ‘post-modern coup’.  In 2000, AKP came to power and its leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan gradually increased his power while avoiding direct conflict with powerful army. There was now conflict between two power centers.   AKP didn’t have qualified cadres to control state bureaucracy. Erdogan made an alliance with cleric Fethullah Gulen.  Gulen’s organization Hizmet has been focused on excellence in education for three decades.  Gulenist sympathizers joined state bureaucracy especially police and judiciary.  Repeated electoral successes of AKP with control of legislature combined with penetration of state structure by Gulenist sympathizers strengthened the civilian hand.  They now felt confident to confront TSK and snatch back some powers.

Gulenist sympathizers in police and judiciary embarked on an ambitious plan of state restructuring by clipping the wings of TSK.  Several former and later serving officers were accused of plotting coups.  Hundreds of officers were charged, arrested and prosecuted in two notorious alleged conspiracies; Ergenekon and Balyoz (Sledgehammer). Later, hundreds of officers including high ranking officers were convicted and sentenced to long prison sentences.  TSK was gradually losing its internal cohesion due to emergence of various factions.  Senior officers lost the confidence of junior officers for failing to protect officer corps from real and imagined conspiracies propagated by pro AKP and pro Gulenist media houses and large-scale arrests of officers.

A group of second and third tier TSK officers decided to strike before Erdogan further clipped TSK wings in upcoming August 2016 YAS meeting.  Elements from major army formations, special forces, army headquarters, air force and helicopter pilots and naval officers were involved in the coup attempt.  TSK senior brass was not in the loop.   Headquarter of coup plotters was at Akinci air force base.

On 15 July afternoon, a helicopter pilot Osman Karaca went to MIT headquarters to warn about impending coup.  MIT chief Hakan Fidan informed head of military police and later army chief General Hulusi Akar.  General Akar issued orders banning military flights over Turkish air space and prohibited movement of armored vehicles.  This upset the original coup launch time of 3 am July 16.  Coup plotters moved the time to 8:30 pm July 15.  This proved to be a fatal error as streets were bustling and Erdogan was able to rally his supporters.  Major General Mehmet Disli of strategic planning branch at General headquarters went to Akar’s office informing him that coup was in motion and asking him to take charge.  When angry Akar refused, he was arrested and flown to Akinci air base.

Coup plotters bombed Turkish parliament building and police headquarters.  Erdogan made the courageous move of flying back to Istanbul and asking his supporters to come out in streets.  Protestors confronted soldiers on the streets.  Coup attempt failed in few hours and government forces quickly restored order.  Erdogan on landing at Istanbul airport declared that ‘if we accept that everything happens for a reason, then this uprising is a gift from God to us because this will be the reason to cleanse our army’.  He truly cleansed the armed forces by sacking and arresting thousands of officers and Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs).  Almost half of flag rank officers of Turkish army, air force and navy were sacked.

Deeply suspicious of the army, Erdogan closed all military colleges and academies and transferred several military institutions including hospitals and business interests of TSK to civilian control.  To counter military’s coercive power, he has strengthened police special forces, paramilitary forces and civilian intelligence.  In Syria, during recent operations against Syrian Kurds, army was used only initially especially tanks but later police special forces and Gendarmerie were deployed on Syrian territory. Erdogan has also expanded the role of private security contractors to fill the security gap. He hired retired Brigadier Adnan Tanriverdi as his military advisor.  Adnan was retired in 1997 on suspicion of having Islamist leanings.  In 2012, he started a private security firm SADAT.

In the aftermath of the coup, Erdogan had two choices. A transparent trial of accused officers and strict punishments or using failed coup attempt to silence all opposition.  Unfortunately, he embarked on the later course with large scale sacking and arrest of not only army personnel but civilian bureaucracy, police and judiciary.  In addition, all opposition including Gulenist sympathizers and Kurds are on the receiving end.  Hundreds of academics were sacked and many journalists have been arrested and large media houses taken over by the government.  This has divided Turkey right in the middle.  Half of Turkey hates and other half loves Erdogan.  This is a recipe for long term instability.  In this environment, it is inevitable that this polarization will affect TSK.  It will take more than a decade to restructure TSK on professional grounds while at the same time keep it under civilian control.

 This article is based on author’s talk at The Democracy Forum in London on 19 March 2018.  

Hamid Hussain

[email protected]

 Defence Journal, May 2018

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