Faithful Fighters : Identity and Power in the British Indian Army, Hardback Book

Faithful Fighters : Identity and Power in the British Indian Army Hardback

Part of the South Asia in Motion series


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During the first four decades of the twentieth century, the British Indian Army possessed an illusion of racial and religious inclusivity.

The army recruited diverse soldiers, known as the "Martial Races," including British Christians, Hindustani Muslims, Punjabi Sikhs, Hindu Rajputs, Pathans from northwestern India, and "Gurkhas" from Nepal.

As anti-colonial activism intensified, military officials incorporated some soldiers' religious traditions into the army to keep them disciplined and loyal.

They facilitated acts such as the fast of Ramadan for Muslim soldiers and allowed religious swords among Sikhs to recruit men from communities where anti-colonial sentiment grew stronger.

Consequently, Indian nationalists and anti-colonial activists charged the army with fomenting racial and religious divisions.

In Faithful Fighters, Kate Imy explores how military culture created unintended dialogues between soldiers and civilians, including Hindu nationalists, Sikh revivalists, and pan-Islamic activists.

By the 1920s and '30s, the army constructed military schools and academies to isolate soldiers from anti-colonial activism.

While this carefully managed military segregation crumbled under the pressure of the Second World War, Imy argues that the army militarized racial and religious difference, creating lasting legacies for the violent partition and independence of India, and the endemic warfare and violence of the post-colonial world.


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