• The invention of the 'Martial' races; The British colonial legacy in a deeply stratified Pakistan

    Posted by Administrator on 08/04/2013

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  •  QUOTE:

    "...the savage representations of masculinity that lay at the heart of martial race ideology* were a crucial imaginative site upon which Anglo-Indian military elites responded to, and attempted to manipulate, historically specific global-imperial politics after 1850 - particularly with regard to the rebellion of 1857, Russian military expansionism, Indian and Irish nationalism, and recruiting problems in the British Army. Far from being a phenomenon with effects limited to the imperial ‘periphery’, the interventions of these military elites in the popular British media helped bring their racial and gendered constructs before a wide public. ...the British Army in India was neither apolitical nor marginal to British culture; rather, its representatives exerted considerable efforts trying to shape the values of Victorian culture. Moreover, their racial and gendered constructions profoundly affected the identities of so-called 'martial race' populations in both Britain and India, who both embraced and manipulated their own representations as martial heroes." Martial races; the military, race and masculinity in British imperial culture, 1857 - 1914 by Heather Streets 

    *martial races in the context of Indian castes included in the main 'Rajput' clans of Muslim, Hindu and Sikh religious persuasion; 'Jatts' who were considered of Rajput ancestry by some British ethnologists and some Brahman offshoots in the Bengal who were later removed from the categorisation after the infamous Indian Mutiny of 1857. Other ethnic groups subsumed within the category included Sikhs and Pashtuns. There were of course a variety of other groupings both ethnic and caste-orientated, some of which again were removed from the martial race typology for political reasons. The martial race ideology 'is the belief that some groups of men are biologically and culturally predisposed to the arts of war' and although it had some semblance in the Vedic caste-system it was primarily engineered by British officers to further their colonial agenda of ‘divide and rule’. In this respect Scottish Highlanders and Nepalese Gurkhas were categorised in a similar vein. 

    We pose the following consideration.

    In light of the power-dynamics that have shaped the political trajectory in Pakistan and Pakistan-administered-Kashmir post 1947 where in the case of Pakistan-administered-Kashmir certain martial castes now dominate the stratified political order (notably those of Rajput, Jatt and Gujjar backgrounds), would it not serve the cause of a free and fair democratic order in Pakistan and its administered regions if this pernicious ideology was exposed in the mainstream for its colonial underpinnings? Or is this merely an oversimplification of the issues currently facing Pakistan? Of course the much revised Muslim caste system of Pakistan (aside from its non-Muslim Vedic origins) is less pernicious than the caste-system in India that has gone on to entrench discriminatory social mores (especially within rural spaces) in a particularly vile way. In Pakistan however caste has influenced prejudicial attitudes on the part of the higher castes contributing to a deeply stratified society.

    Would this be a fair assessment of the facts?

    Please discuss the issues within the limits of proper comportment; extending respect and courtesy to those whose views you may not necessarily agree with. Offensive and hate-filled comments (normally reflective of intellectually-challenged people) will be deleted.


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