The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Army gives count, but under cover
- Fear of misrepresentation fuels request to keep community-wise break-up secret

New Delhi, Feb. 14: The army has given the ministry of defence details on the community-wise composition of its ranks following queries by a committee constituted by the Prime Minister’s Office but has requested that the information should not be made public or debated.

The request has been made because of the fear that data can be misinterpreted if it is taken out of the historical and political context in which the army operates and because its manpower planning is determined by variables.

The high-level committee headed by retired judge Rajinder Sachar was asked to prepare a report on the social, economic and educational status of Muslims in India. It has queried more than 500 government institutions. But the representation of the query to the forces has been taken out of context, committee sources said.

The committee had asked the armed forces on the composition of ranks as part of a questionnaire. The sources said replies to the questionnaire had to be collated for the task that has been set out for the committee in its terms of reference.

Defence sources said the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy had already responded to the questionnaire. Army headquarters was dragging its feet and its reluctance was made an issue because the questionnaire was represented as an effort to take a census of the minority community.

The Sachar committee has expressed its “anguish” at this misrepresentation. “The committee is fully aware and values the intrinsic importance of the armed forces and there is no way that the committee would ever ask any question that may, in any manner, be even remotely prejudicial to the interests of the nation, which must always remain supreme,” a statement said.

Army headquarters sources said recruitment into the service was not done religion-wise since Partition and the division of military assets in 1947. That year, the army’s two Muslim-only regiments ' the Baluch Regiment and the Frontier Forces ' were transferred to Pakistan.

The army currently has a strength of a little more than 10 lakh. Its composition is the responsibility of the adjutant general and army headquarters’ manpower planning department. The number of Muslims in the army would be less than 10 per cent.

The committee sources said there was no query to the armed forces on the role of Muslims in military operations in 1948 and 1999.

A defence ministry source said there are all-Muslim companies in at least five regiments ' Rajputs, Grenadiers, Maratha Light Infantry, Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI) and Jammu and Kashmir Rifles (JAKRIF). The highest percentage would be in the last two regiments.

But there are Muslims also in the artillery, armoured corps and engineers. This applies to personnel below officer rank. Among officers, the army does not maintain a community-wise register.

The committee has been asked to prepare its report by seeking information from departments of the central and state governments and survey, published data, articles and related researches at the state, regional and district levels.

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