chapter  9
22 Pages

‘Prejudices clung to by the natives’

Ethnicity in the Indian army and hospitals for sepoys, c. 1870s–1890s
WithSamiksha Sehrawat

Recruitment in the Indian army was conducted through sepoy officers who returned to their native villages with recruiting parties and used their ethnic networks to persuade potential recruits to join the army. Medical treatment within the army was regimental in the 1870s – that is, each regiment had its own medical officer and its own regimental hospital, which was expected to possess all the equipment and staff required to cater to the medical needs of the regiment’s men. The Army Organization Commission of 1879, which solicited views regarding the relative merits of the two systems, also emphasized the ‘special objections which apply to Native troops’ with regard to the station hospital system. Such views essentialized sepoys as irrationally bound to their customs and ‘prejudices’. Analysis of the colonial army’s policy towards Indian military hospitals reveals that the essentialization of Indian troops as irrationally attached to customs predated the ‘martial race discourse’.