Members of the Ahir community have been sitting on an indefinite protest near Kherki Daula toll plaza in Gurgaon since February 4, demanding the formation of an Ahir regiment in the Indian Army. The same day, at least 400 protesters had taken out a rally leading to traffic congestion near toll plaza and camped at the site.
The protesters have called for another rally on March 23, with organisers expecting a large turnout including politicians from BJP, Congress, AAP and INLD. Gurgaon traffic police on Monday night issued an advisory stating that traffic was likely to be disrupted on Delhi-Gurgaon highway on Wednesday and a stretch – from Kherki Daula toll to Hero Honda chowk – would be closed for traffic from 7 am to 5 pm.
Who is leading the protests and what are their demands?
The protests are being organised under the banner of ‘Sanyukt Ahir Regiment Morcha’, a group comprising Ahir community leaders from south Haryana. The group, which was registered as a trust in March 2021, had led protests in 2018 and sat on a hunger strike for nine days before ending the agitation after assurances from politicians. After extensive consultations with block and panchayat leaders in south Haryana and parts of Rajasthan, the group has been on an indefinite protest, which it claims would intensify till their demand is met.
The protesters contend that the Indian Army had several caste-based regiments and since Ahirs had a large representation in the army, they want a separate regiment for Ahirs along similar lines.
Manoj Yadav, founder-member of the morcha, said the demand for a separate Ahir or Yadav regiment was a fight for their honour and rights.
“This is a demand for the rights for Yadav’s across the country. The Ahir community has given sacrifices in all the wars and they have won several gallantry awards. In the battle of Rezang La in 1962, out of 120 casualties, 114 were Ahirs. It is unfortunate that Ahirs have not got the recognition like other communities. The recruitment to President’s Bodyguard (PBG) is open only for Rajputs, Jats and Sikh regiments. Just like there is a separate caste-based regiment for Sikhs, Gorkhas, Jaats, Garhwals, Rajputs, we demand formation of an Ahir regiment in the army,” he said.
Yadav added that for the rally on Wednesday, they had invited several MPs and politcians from Haryana, Rajasthan, Delhi and other states.
Support from political parties
The formation of a separate regiment for Ahirs has been a long standing demand of the community in the Ahirwal region – Gurgaon, Rewari and Mahendragarh belt. With leaders across party lines extending their support to the protesters, the issue is likely to gain clamour in the lead up to the next assembly elections in the state. People of Yaduvanshi Ahir community have a sizeable presence in south Haryana, north-eastern Rajasthan and south-western Delhi.
Arun Yadav, morcha member, said that they will ask politicians to include the demand in their election manifestos.
“We have given the slogan ‘vote wahi paega jo Ahir Regiment banwaega’ [those who will get the Ahir regiment formed, shall get the vote],” said Yadav.
At a ‘Shaheedi Diwas Samaroh’ in village Patauda in Jhajjar, which was held in September 2021 to mark the martyrdom on Ahirwal King Rao Tula Ram, Gurgaon MP and Union Minister of State Rao Inderjit Singh had said that he would raise his voice for a separate Ahir regiment.
On March 2, Singh visited the protest site at Kherki Daula and reiterated his support to the cause. “I support the demand of an Ahir Regiment in the Army. I have written to the defence minister regarding the same. Not only Mahendragarh and Rewari (Haryana), but people of Uttar Pradesh are also demanding the formation of Ahir regiment,” he had said.
On Saturday, Congress MP Deepender Hooda had met the protesters and extended his support. “Yaduvanshis have a deep connection with both plough and arms. Their valour needs no introduction. It is time now that an Ahir regiment is established to give them due recognition. I extend full support to the demand of Ahir Regiment in the Indian Army. I have also raised the demand in parliament and until a positive decision is taken, I will stand with you in every fight from road to Parliament,” he had told the community.
Ram Kanwar, political analyst and former professor, Haryana Agricultural University, Hisar, said that the issue of Ahir regiment was an attempt by the political parties to divert attention of people from real issues. “The issue of Ahir regiment, particularly in Ahirwal region, is an emotive issue. Ahir population is significantly higher in UP and Bihar as compared to Haryana. Parties are banking on emotive factor by invoking caste. After independence, no regiment has been raised in the army along caste lines,” he said.
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