Yādav refers to a grouping of traditionally non-elite, pastoral communities, or castes, in India and Nepal which since the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has claimed descent from the mythological King Yadu as a part of a movement of social and political resurgence.
The term 'Yadav' now covers many traditional pastoral castes such as Ahirs of the Hindi belt, the Gavli of Maharashtra, the Goala of Andhra and the Konar of Tamil Nadu. In the Hindi belt, "Ahir," "Gwala," and "Yadav" are often used synonymously. The Yadav are included in the category Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in many Indian states.
Traditionally, Yadav groups were linked to cattle raising and, as such, were outside the formal caste system. Since the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Yadav movement has worked to improve the social standing of its constituents, through Sanskritisation, active participation in the Indian and British armed forces, expansion of economic opportunities to include other, more prestigious business fields, and active participation in politics. Yadav leaders and intellectuals have often focused on their claimed descent from Yadu, and from Lord Krishna, which they argue confers kshatriya status upon them, and effort has been invested in recasting the group narrative to emphasize kshatriya-like valor, however, the overall tenor of their movement has not been overtly egalitarian in the context of the larger Indian caste system.
Yadava Martyrs of 1962 War
In the Indian-China War of 1962, the Ahirs (almost all of them hailing from the Ahirwal region of Southern Haryana) of 13 Kumaon Regiment set an unparallel example in the military history of Aryavart by defending their position at Rezang La in Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir. The battle of Rezang La, a ridge overlooking the strategic Chushul plains in Ladakh, to defend the highest air strip in the world located at 16,000 feet—just across the Chinese claim line—is one of the most glorious chapters in the history of the Bharatya army and has been compared by some Bharatya military historians with the famed Battle of Thermopylae. In the final phase of the Indo-China War of 1962, where Bharatya units typically offered little resistance while being routed by attacking PLA forces, the Ahir Charlie Company from 13 Kumaon, set a rare example of bravery and dedication by literally fighting to the last man. Of the 120 defenders, only three survived, all seriously wounded. The rest, were discovered after the winter, frozen, mostly holding their weapons but with no ammunition. According to some accounts, several jawans, having run out of ammunition, came out of the pickets and charged the enemy with bare hands—Lance Naik Ram Singh killing several Chinese soldiers after lifting and hitting them against the rocks. It is also believed that these jawans inflicted heavy casualties on the attackers. Of the 120 soldiers, 114 were Yadavas from Haryana.
On this horrific battle, Major-General Ian Cardozo, in his book Param Vir, Our Heroes In Battle writes,“When Rezang La was later revisited dead jawans were found in the trenches still holding on to their weapons... every single man of this company was found dead in his trench with several bullet or splinter wounds. The 2-inch mortar man died with a bomb still in his hand. The medical orderly had a syringe and bandage in his hands when the Chinese bullet hit him... Of the thousand mortar bombs with the defenders all but seven had been fired and the rest were ready to be fired when the (mortar) section was overrun.”
General T.N. Raina said"You rarely come across such example in the annals of world military history when braving such heavy odds, the men fought till the last bullet and the last man. Certainly the Battle of Rezang La is such a shining example."
General K S Thimayya remarked,"I had said many years ago that the Army must have a Ahir Regiment. The supreme sacrifice of the Charlie Company has fulfilled my expectations. I hope a suitable memorial will be built in Ahirwal in their memory so that the generations to come may seek inspiration from the immense courage and valour of their forefathers."
The heroes who were awarded the Vir Chakra in 1962 defending Rezang La were Naik Hukum Chand (posthumous), Naik Gulab Singh Yadav, Lance-Naik Ram Singh (posthumous), Sub. Ram Kumar and Sub.Ram Chander. All hailed from the Rewari district of Haryana, where a Rezang La memorial has been placed in their memory in Gudiani village.