The Beraris - 2nd Bn, Kumaon Regiment


History of Berar 

 The origin of the name Berar is not known, but  perhaps it may  be a corruption of Vidharba, the name of a kingdom in the Deccan during the period of the Mahabharta. The history of the Berar belongs generally to that of the Deccan, under the sway of the various dynasties who successively ruled  Southern India but first authentic records show it as the part of the Andhra or the Satvavahna  Empire.

Berar Province, known also as the Hyderabad Assigned Districts, was a former province of British India.The province, formerly ruled by the Nizam of Hyderabad, was administered by the British after 1853, although the Nizam retained formal sovereignty over the province. After October 1, 1903 administration of the province was placed under the Commissioner-General for the Central Provinces, which was renamed as theCentral Provinces and Berar. The total area of the province was 113,281 square miles. It is now part of  Vidarbha region  of the Maharashtra . The boundaries of Berar have changed historically, but the British province corresponds to Maharashtra's Amravati region.

 In the 12 th  century, Berar came under the sway of the  Yadavas of Deogiri and remained in their possession till the Muslim invasions at the end of the 13 th century. On the establishment of the Bahamani  Sultante in the Deccan ( 1348), Berar was constituted one of the five provinces into which their kingdom was divided, being governed by great nobles, with a separate army. The perils of this system becoming apparent, the province was again divided in 1478 into two separate provinces, named after their capitals  Gawil and Mahur. The Bahmani dynasty was, however, already tottering to its fall  and in 1490  Imad –ul- Malik Governor of Gawil who had formerly held all Berar, proclaimed  independence, annexed Mahur to his new kingdom and had capital at  Ellichpur. Imad-ul-Mulk was by birth a  Kanarese Hindu, who had been captured as a boy in one of the expeditions against the Vijayanagar Empire  and brought up as a Muslim. He died in  1504 and his direct descendants held the sultanate of Berar until 1561, when  Burhan Imad Shah was deposed by his minister Tufal Khan, who assumed the kingship. This gave a pretext for the intervention of  Murtaza Nizam Shah of  Ahemdnagar, who invaded Berar in 1572, killed Tufal Khan  and annexed Berar in his own dominion.

In 1595  Shah Murad, son of the Moughal Emperor  Akbar, besieged Ahmednagar, and was bought off by the formal cession of Berar. Murad, founding the city of Shahpur, fixed his seat at Berar. After his death in 1598, Akbar conquered Deccan and united  the province with Ahmednagar and  Kandesh under his  other son Danyal  as  the Governor. After Akbar's death (1601), Berar once more became independent under the  Ethopian Malik Ambar  but in the first year of  Shah jahan’s  reign it was again brought under the sway of the Mughal Empire. Towards the close of the 17 th century the province began to be overrun by the  Marathas, and in 1718 the Mughal empire formally recognised their right to levy tribute from the unhappy population.

In 1724 Qamar-ud-din who was an astute general and administrator was given the title of the  Nizam –ul – Mulk Asif Jah established the independent line of the Asif Jahi Nizams of  Hyderabad, and thenceforth the latter claimed to be de jure sovereigns of Berar, with exception of certain districts (Mehkar, Umarkhed, etc.) ceded to the Maratha  Peshwas in 1760 and 1795. The claim was contested by the Maratha  Bhonsale Rajas of Nagpur for more than half a century who was forced to  cede his territories west of the Wardha, Gawilgarh and Narnala. to the Nizam, together with some tracts about Sindkhed and Jalna  held by the  Scindia. By a treaty of 1822, the Maratha lost right  to levy tribute and the Wardha River was fixed as the Eastern boundary of Berar and the Melghat and adjoining districts in the plains were assigned to the Nizam in exchange for the districts East of the Wardha held by the Peshwa. Qamar-ud-din was an astute general and an equally able administrator.

Though Berar was no longer oppressed by its Maratha taskmasters nor harried by  Pindari and  Bhil raiders, it remained long a prey to the turbulent elements let loose by the sudden cessation of the wars. From time to time bands of soldiers, whom the government was powerless to control, scoured the country, and rebellion succeeded rebellion till 1859, when the last fight against open rebels took place at Chichamba near Risod.

Meanwhile the misery of the country was increased by the reckless raising of loans by the Nizam's government. At last the British government intervened, and in 1853 a new treaty was signed with the Nizam, under which the Hyderabad Contingent was to be maintained by the British Government and for the pay of this force and other claims, certain districts were assigned to the  British East India Company.  However, these "Hyderabad Assigned Districts" popularly  forming the Province of Berar neither coincided in extent  with the Berar of the Nizams nor with the old Mughal Province. In 1860, by another treaty  it was agreed that Berar should be held in trust by the British Government .

Under British controlunder whom it rapidly recovered its prosperity. Thousands of Marathi farmers who had emigrated across the Wardha to the Peshwas dominions, in order to escape the ruinous fiscal system of the Nizam's Government, now returned.The American Civil war also gave an immense stimulus to the cotton trade. The laying of the  railway line across the province provided further  employment, to locals  making them rapidily prosperous and contented.

On October 1, 1903, Berar was placed under the administration of the British Commissioner General of the Central Provinces, which henceforth became known as the Central Provinces and Berar. After India's independence in 1947, the Central Provinces and Berar became a province of India, and in 1950 became the Indian  state  of Madhya Pradesh. In 1956, the Indian states were reorganised along linguistic lines, and Berar and Nagpur became part of  Bombay State. In 1960, Bombay State was split along linguistic lines, and thessouthern, Marathi-speaking portion of the state, including Berar, became the new state of  Maharashtra.

 2 nd Battalion (Berar) The KUMAON Regiment

 It had become a fashion those days for the Indian rulers to employ Europeans - the French, the British, the Dutch and the Portuguese to train their armies. Around 1780s the refusal of the British in his struggle against the Marathas, Nizam took help of the French trader turned soldier Raymond helped Nizam’s Army by raising ten well equipped and trained battalions that bore the colours of the French Republic and 2KUMAON (Berar) traces its origin to one of these raised battalions ! Eventually, the British prevailed and the East India Company, in the course of the history took over the crumbling Mughal Empire.  By 1780, the Nizam’s struggle for supremacy in the Southern India brought into hotch potch existence of feudal regular and non regular troops who were the forerunners of the KUMAON Regiment. The 2/19 Hyderabad Regiment (Berar) traces its history between 1780-1783 and was named Nizam’s Regular Berar Infantry in 1797. In 1813, it was redesignated as 1st Battalion Berar Infantry for hunting down the bandits in the Berar province. It was renamed as 3 rd Regiment Nizam’s Infantry in 1826 while in 1854 it became as 3 rd Regiment Infantry of the Hyderabad Contingent. In 1903 it became as 96 th Berar Infantry and eventually as 2 nd Battalion (Berar), The 19 th Hyderabad Regiment in 1922. In 1945 it got its present designation as 2 nd Battalion (Berar), The KUMAON Regiment.

Much of the earlier history of the 2 KUMAON (Berar) was unfortunately lost as no official records were maintained in those days. The first known Commanding Officer of the Battalion was Captain Stanley (1851-1854) while Lt Col RK Macquoid commanded the Battalion for the longest period of 14 yrs from 23 Apr 1869 to 31 Mar1883.The first Indian Commanding Officer was Lt Col Padam Singh (20 Sep 1948 to 13 May 1949) who took over the command from the last British Commanding Officer Lt Col HS Stansfield. As part of the Nizam’s Army, the class composition of the Battalion was Rohillas, Arabs and Sikhs. Thereafter, the infantry of the Hyderabad Contingent recruited Rajputs of the United Province as also the Muslims and some low caste Hindus from the Deccan. In 1945, after redesignation of the Hyderabad Regiment as the KUMAON Regiment, the class composition of the Battalion became 75 % Kumaonis and 25 % Ahirs. In 1960, the Ahirs were exchanged with equal numbers of the Kumaonis from 13 KUMAON and both the units became pure Kumaonis and Ahirs respectively.

Command of the Beraris

Though I was commissioned and groomed in 13 KUMAON, I was destined to command Beraris in late 1983.I was really very humble to undertake this very honourable but challenging task being fully aware that my all predecessors were professionally very upright officers. I prayed Goddess Kalika, the deity of the Regiment to give me the strength, wisdom and guidance in my sacred task. With the support of my professionally very sound second in command Major Kuttappa, equally efficient and dedicated Sub Maj Amar Singh, other JCOs and senior NCOs and bunch of live wire young officers like Bobby Mathews, Ajai Ohri, Mamgain, Perty and Sharma, I took no time to settle down as a thorough bred Berari as per the maxim of the Paltan,” Once a Berari is always a Berari.” We excelled in all the fields- training, administration, sports, operational commitments, internal security duties in the wake of Ahemdabad anti- reservation cum communal riots, Operation Blue Star, combating ONGC’s Kadi Oil Well fire, professional courses or even plantation of the trees in  the new cantonment of Gandhinagar. The Beraris had such refined Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and traditions that command became that much easier but effective. However, I had regret or two - firstly, like our present day some what unlucky and complacent World Cup Cricket team, Beraris lost the formation’s Inter Battalion Support Weapons’ Competition while my command tenure came to the end. However, I was delighted to learn in the Assam Rifles where I was posted that eventually the Beraris had won the said competition with a clean sweep the following year.

It is a little known fact that the Deccan Horse –one of the oldest and finest armoured corps regiments of the Indian Army is an off shoot of the Beraris. In 1983 in Hissar when the Deccan Horse was celebrating its raising day, I had the opportunity-to meet the then Chief of the Army Staff Gen Arun Vaidya, MVC who was a distinguished officer from the Deccan Horse. Incidentally, all Chiefs’ of the Army Staff except Gen Vaidya, MVC had visited the Beraris and signed its historical Visitor’s Book in the Officers’ Mess. I brought this little incident to the notice of the Chief. We were very pleasantly surprised and honoured that once we were settled in Gandhinagar our new peace station, General & Mrs Vaidya visited the Battalion on a personal visit and signed the Officer’s Mess Visitor’s Book. Incidentally, at Gandhinagar our GOC was Maj Gen Afsir Karim who was commissioned in the Beraris but volunteered to be a Paratrooper. Nevertheless, he as a die hard Berari regularly visited the Battalion in Gandhinagar.

Down The   Memory  Lane  Nostalgia

I retired from the Army in 1995 and the Intelligence Bureau in 2003 and have settled down in Noida. I often meet Maj Gen Afsir Karim, AVSM during morning walks and so also Brig PN Kaul -another veteran Berari. I also often met Lt Gen Bhaiya, PVSM, AVSM** (Retd), who was our previous Colonel of the Regiment, so also Maj Gen Datt, VSM who commanded the Battalion in 1974-77 in our regimental get to gathers often held in Delhi. But nothing thrills me more than a rare phone call from an old Berari or a Special BRO or once a year sent New Year card from the Paltan. I feel very proud and happy to learn that Bobby after the tenure as an instructor in the Staff College and OTA is commanding a brigade in Barrackpore while Ajai Ohri is Col Q after his Long Defence Management Course. I am equally happy to know that Mamgain who went to Intelligence Corps was not only awarded Sena Medal but is looking for bigger responsibilities after the Higher Command Course. Its great to know that Perty after his short service tenure is big wig in the corporate world as Head of the Administration of the Reliance Energy Power Plant coming up at Dadri near Noida while Kuttappa hung his boots prematurely and is well settled in Bangalore.Meeting Gokran ,my sahayak and Harish, my driver in the Paltan is always a great plesure for me and my family.

 Everything about Beraris is nostalgic- whether it is their 100 years old leather sofa set always smelling fresh of wax and polish or equally old Visitors’ Book in the Officer’s Mess bearing signatures of Mr Montgomery, Capt Slim, Capt Ayub Khan, Mr Yahya Khan, Sir Sikandar Hayyat Khan or the various service chiefs after the independence. One cannot imagine the pleasure of drinking beer on a week day in a silver mug that is over 150 years old while snacks are served in equally old crockery and cutlery. One can read history by watching 150 years e old moth eaten colours proudly displayed in the Officers Mess.

The Berari Paltan is known for its strong spirited characteristics of taking the rough and the soft with aplomb. After independence the 'Turning Point' in the Battalion’s history in terms of training, procedures, SOPs both for war and peace, operational readiness, welfare, élan, aplomb and thorough professionalism was injected by Col Sewa Nath- an officer who meant business and professionalism .Col Sewa Nath was very unassuming but with an iron fist inside a kid glove. Likes of him produced soldiers like Havaldar (later Subedar & Honorary Captain) Mani Ram who got distinction in the Platoon Weapon’s Course and was rated as the best weapons’ instructor. Col Sewa Nath was thorough in his basics that always matter at any unit level. He transformed the Battalion into a rough and unpolished diamond whose rough edges were softened by the later commanding officers.

 This GREAT PALTAN has served the nation for over 225 years from China, Burma, Baluchistan, North West Frontier Province, Afghanistan, Persia, Mesopotamia, Italy etc before independence and all theatres with in the country thereafter, proudly and silently. Like its story has no beginning, similarly there is no end to its immense services to the grateful nation. Thus, the Berari story goes on and on AND ON till eternity watched by those who retire and survive with pride and moisture in their gleaming eyes…..