Military establishments are omnipresent if not everywhere omnipotent. While these costly bureaucracies are the bane of finance ministers around the world, they do provide an important opportunity for comparative analysis. This paper examines a military system—the Indian one—through time, and attempts to demonstrate the changing relationship of that system to Indian politics and society in general, and to the low-caste communities of India in particular. We select the low-caste untouchables because they represent an extreme challenge to the integrative capacity of both political and social systems, and because they have recently been the subject of intensive political and academic concern.

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