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Field Marshal Cariappa Favored Military Rule and Abolition of Linguistic States

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MG, an air warrior, a health freak, and Sportsman with wide experience.



Field Marshal KM Cariappa was a King's commissioned officer. Just after the end of World war 1, the British government agreed to the demand of the Congress party for the Indianization of the armed forces. A batch of Indians was selected to become officers in the British Indian army and sent to John Henry Daly College at Indore for training.

The Daly College was a school set up in 1881 by Brigadier General Daly. It was converted into a cadets training academy. The first batch of Indians to become officers were trained there. The Daly College was a high school and it was supposed to cater to the education of the princes of Central India. Cariappa joined Daly College and was placed 8th in the merit list on passing out. He was commissioned into the Indian army in 1919 as a sub-lieutenant but was made junior to British officers who had passed out from Sandhurst.

In 1925, as part of the British policy to give more responsible positions to Indians a batch of 25 Indians were selected to undergo officers training at Sandhurst. The Indians who were suddenly removed from a conservative atmosphere in India and then exposed to an entirely different culture in England failed to adapt to the training conditions. Out of the 25 selected for training two died and 10 were relegated and sent back another six failed and only 7 passed out from the Academy.

Not much is known of the batch mates of Cariappa from Daly College. Probably all of them did not continue in the army and went away and only Cariappa continued as a commissioned officer. In 1949 he was promoted to Lieutenant General and made the commander-in-chief of the Indian Army with the rank of general. He was the first Indian to be the commander in chief of the British Indian army which ever since its inception had always been commanded by British officers. In 1947 after India gained independence the nomenclature of the British Indian army was changed to the Indian army.


The general's opinion

Cariappa during his term as the commander-in-chief did not bring about many reforms in the army. He continued with the British traditions and the Indian army continued to be recruited on religious and caste lines. This continues to this day. There is much criticism of Cariappa during his term as the commander in chief as he allowed the army to be devalued because Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who had become the prime minister was a man with very big stature. Nehru distrusted the army. The result was that Nehru refused to arm the army with the latest weapons and allowed it to go to seed. By his actions, he reduced the finest fighting machine of Asia to an impotent force.

Cariappa is guilty of allowing this to happen and at the same time at that critical juncture when China had invaded Tibet he never advised Nehru to intervene and he did not put up any service paper to the Government of India regarding the threat from China. This will always be a black mark against the tenure of General Cariappa as the commander in chief of the Indian army

In defence of Cariappa, it can be said that at that time things were not so bad in the country and India was having good relations with China.

Cariappa retired from the army in 1953 and was promptly sent as High Commissioner to Australia. On his return, he observed that Pandit Nehru had carried out some very devious steps in the country like dividing the country into linguistic lines and giving special rights to the minorities as far as personal law is concerned Cariappa also visited Pakistan twice and met the Pakistan President General Mohammed Ayub Khan who had worked under him during World war II.

Cariappa decried the creation of linguistic states which he felt would sound the death knell of India and would lead to sectarianism. He was right because India throughout the ages had never been divided into linguistic lines and this step of Nehru could lead to the balkanization of the country. He also publicly began to espouse the case for military rule in India after going to Pakistan. Probably he must have realized that when he was army chief he had missed the train. During that period when he was the high commissioner in Australia General Ne Win in Burma and General Mohammed Ayub in Pakistan carried out military coup d'etat and established military rule in the country

On his return to India, he began to espouse his views on the subject and he finally came round to making a public statement that India required a spell of military rule. He was also of the view that the linguistic states be abolished and the country we divided geometrically with a foot ruler for better administration and cohesiveness like the army commands.

This comment annoyed the Government of India. But unfortunately, at that time he had left the army long back. It must have been at the back of his mind that in 1953 when he was the army chief he could have easily displaced the Congress government and put his ideas into practice. In his defense, one can say that the reorganization of States came in only in 1955, and trouble with China brewed only after 1957.

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There is no doubt that the Indian state is struggling to remain a cohesive nation and fissiparous tendencies are spreading. The country also by opting for democracy lost the impetus for development and lost the leadership of Asia. In 1948 the Indian per capita income was three times that of China where not even a cycle was manufactured but now the Chinese per capita income is five times that of an Indian and they have eradicated poverty. They have also occupied 40,000 square miles of Indian territory and all this for a song

We must give Cariappa credit that he had the courage in an atmosphere dominated by big political figures like Indira Gandhi that he forcefully articulated his views that what India needed was army rule and the abolition of the linguistic States. He favored English as the National link language.

One really cannot argue with him on these points because the military rule would have definitely taken India forward. It must be remembered he never advocated "perpetual" military rule. He always said that the military dictatorship should be for a limited period only and after that the democratic structure can be restored so that India can be like the United States. There were not very many who supported these revolutionary views and he soon faded away.

Last word

Much water has gone down the period and in 1986 Rajiv Gandhi government honoured Cariappa by confirming the rank of field Marshal. He however was steadfast in his views and one cannot query with him on them the army now has become the only unifying force in the country and yet it is greatly discriminate against despite all that carry office said after he retired the fact remains that when in service e put little pressure on to the Government of India and pandit Nehru to restore the status of the army to the days of the British Raja

Cariappa however will I mean an important figure in Indian history as the man who had the courage to advocate military rule in India like Pakistan maybe if Cariappa had been the army chief just about 45 years later we could have expected something similar to what happened in Burma and Pakistan


MG Singh (author) from UAE on November 19, 2020:

Thank you, Devika, for a valid comment

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on November 19, 2020:

MG Singh your work is informative and well-researched. I find the poverty in India needs an approach from the governement to make their lives better. Alot has to be changed and sadly there is no change as yet.

MG Singh (author) from UAE on November 15, 2020:

Dear Brig, thanks for commenting. The FM views are very relevant as India has not been able to abolish poverty. A spell of Army rule could certainly be a help.

Brig. MM Sinha on November 15, 2020:

I am delighted to read this article. Cariappa is right that a spell of martial law would be good for the country. This conundrum of caste, religion, and absense of meritocracy is pulling the country down. It's about time order was restored in this chaos

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