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Prejudices faced by Muslim soldiers in WWI

29th Mar 2018

Sir, In his excellent review article on The Unknown Fallen, Mr Ahmed Versi says that the book does not provide information on the possible prejudices and challenges faced by Muslim soldiers. The British authorities in India treated Muslim soldiers fairly and evenly compared with the soldiers of other martial races. Close to 1.2 million Indian soldiers fought in the WWI and played an important role in defending Western Europe against the German invasion. They were the main force that helped allies fight their way to victory. Armistice would have been impossible without the Indian Army.

However, in West Asia particularly in Palestine, Gallipoli, and Mesopotamia, there was a hint of trust deficit as Muslim soldiers like Pathans and Baluchis were kept away from the areas of direct fighting with the Turks. There was an implicit doubt about their loyalty and the higher military command feared the possibility of their crossing over and make common cause with Turks who were fellow Muslims.

Even the famous Hyderabad Lancers [Nizam’s troops] who initially fought in Palestine and suffered some losses, were given secondary duties. The British fear was baseless as Muslims had fought with great courage and had won many laurels in France and Belgium. The first  Victoria Cross was won by Khudadad Khan of the Baluch Regiment. Perhaps the British had not forgotten the Uprising of 1857.

Yours,
Yunus Chitalwala
By Email

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