Justice Markandey Katju has once again courted controversy in his blog and this time the objects of his caustic remarks are soldiers of the Indian Army who took part in the First World War under the British flag. Questioning the need to honour these soldiers in the 100th anniversary of the war, Justice Katju has said that the Indian troops fought as “hired assassins”.
In the blog, written on December 9, Justice Katju says that he differs with the view that Indian soldiers who fought in World War 1 should be honoured. He then goes on to give a history of the First World War and the reason why the Triple alliance of England, France and Russia fought against Germany and Austria.
While giving this background Justice Katju argues that the First World War had nothing to do with the people of India. It was a war which was fought for redistribution of colonies.
He further writes that the Indian soldiers who fought in that war on the side of the British and French “were really mercenaries and hirelings of the British and French”. He also writes that “the Indian troops fought as hired assassins” to kill Germans for Anglo-French interests, not Indian interests. “They may have been brave, but many hired assassins are also brave. Why then should we honour them,” he questions.
Not surprisingly his comments have riled many in the Indian defence community and among the first to criticise Justice Katju is Captain Amarinder Singh of the erstwhile royal state of Patiala. Patiala state contributed one of the largest contingents of soldiers to the British effort in the first world war and he has also recently written a book on the role of Indian soldiers in the First World War.
Attacking Justice Katju, Capt Amarinder said that he should not make comments on issues about which he has no knowledge. “What he has written in his blog is an insult to to the Indian Army and its regiments. The Indian Army deserves an apology from Justice Katju,” he said.
Amarinder went on to add that the decision to send Indian troops to fight in the First World War was ratified by the Indian National Congress which passed a resolution ratifying it. “Even Mahatma Gandhi supported this then who is Katju to question the motivation and dedication of the Indian soldier who fought for his regiment and honour,” he said.
As many as 62,000 Indian troops are officially listed as having died in the four-year long war. However, as per Captain Amarinder the number of those who lost their lives is far more since this list does not include those from the state forces. “The Commonwealth Graves Commission lists 74,000 Indian,” he said.