Dear Readers, below is an article written by a retired Woman IPS officer. A very well written article especially from the perspective of women empowerment and enhancement. Every Indian needs to read it and work to promote the aspects listed to bring gender equality but at the same time restrain those trying it to impose it on the Armed Forces blindly. Please first read this article :
I am committing the temerity of questioning you and the wisdom and experience of your outstanding career in the Indian army. As a citizen of India, I have full respect for your leadership and will come to the point without any further ado.
I am writing about a statement attributed to you a few days ago, voicing your doubts regarding the assigning of combat roles to women in the Indian army. I was brought up to believe that I have the freedom to choose the career I want and the life I wish to lead.
I am well aware that far too many of my sisters across the country have not been as fortunate in this regard. For centuries, we have been “boxed” into certain roles that you have mentioned. We do not question the beauty and strength that comes from being nurturers. We are proud to be home-makers, mothers, sisters and wives. But what if we also want more — for instance, the freedom to choose? Many men have helped us in our many struggles to come out of the box.
I thought that you are one such supportive soldier, instead of being the one to tell us, nay order us, to be what you consider we “should be”. Do not let me and millions like me down, General. You know how tired we are of being told that we are second-grade citizens. You are also well aware that within families, many of us are made to do with left-overs as our food.
Spending on our health and education is minimal. We are not safe on the roads and most unsafe in public spaces after dark, or so our families think. There are so many restrictions on our movements and hurdles to our growth. We have just about managed to come out of confined spaces and we are slowly gaining confidence in our own capabilities.
It has not been an easy journey, as you know. But we have been steady and determined to make full use of the equality and freedom bestowed on us not by any individual but by the Constitution of India.
We are in the process of utilising our rights and opportunities to develop our full potential. I am distressed that instead of rejoicing at our marching ahead in full steam you would want us to retreat. Mistake it not, General, all we want is the freedom to choose.
See how Mary Kommade the country proud when she chose the unconventional sport called boxing. At 35, her home is full of the well-deserved medals and also with the children she loves. There was no “ruckus” when she became pregnant nor did child birth or child rearing adversely affect her performance or commitment to her sport.
And look at her husband who respected her choices and supported her. In fact, the last Asian Games show that girls have finally arrived. Vinesh Phogat (wrestling), Rahi Sarnobat (shooting), Swapna Barman (heptathlon) must have been told that they cannot, yet they did.
I am sure that they drew their strength from their families who believe that girls can indeed balance homes and careers. General, many of the flights that you and I routinely take have women either as captains or first flight officers. Was it possible in India, say 60 years back? With both men and women accepting and supporting them, girls in India have dared to touch the forbidden clouds. Not to forget Bachendri Pal who became the first Indian woman to climb the Everest way back in 1984 followed by so many adventurous and ambitious girls. Then why should we shy away from the combat role? Instead of declaring us unfit for combat roles without giving us a chance, dare us and we shall prove you wrong. The media quoted you as saying that “…she will say somebody is peeping, so we will have to give a sheet around her”. Please tackle the Peeping Tom and not the woman objecting to him. Some doubts about the combat role for women in the Indian army are expected, but not from you, General. You, in your position of leadership, are expected to innovate and encourage new ideas, lead us on the uncharted roads. How can you become a prisoner of the age-old stereotypes that you are supposed to discourage and discard? Anyway, the message on the wall is clear for all to see. We, the women of India, have realised that we are not only the mistresses of our destiny but also capable of creating our destinies. There is no stopping us now. “Combat or no combat” will be our choice and not anyone else’s. Sorry for being blunt, General, but in my school, I learnt that equality and freedom of choice are the soul of our Constitution and I internalised it. With no apology, I claim my right to choose. Warm regards and season’s greetings Jai Hind.
Jai Hind, Madam
You have written the above article, knowing very well that as an Indian Army Officer, General Bipin Rawal does not posses the luxury of giving you a befitting reply. He voluntarily gave up that much valued FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT of his enshrined in the Constitution of India —FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION and few other Rights too, the day he took oath in front of the Chetwood Hall,IMA Dehradun, on a cold December day of 1978. He took oath to defend that very Constitution. As an IPS officer, I am very sure, you know the difference between the oath you took when donning the Police Uniform and that taken by 2LT Bipin Rawat.
The Freedom of Choice and Equality is within the four walls of Democracy around India. The Wall itself is made up of the Indian Armed Forces, where perforce these RIGHTS are exercised only up to the time at which those aspiring to join it, fill the Form for Recruitment. Once the Forms are filled up then whom to recruit is guided solely by the Qualitative Requirements as laid down by the Armed Forces. Such rules are not arbitrary but flows from the very Constitution you have been harping up on so tirelessly.
New ideas are always encouraged in the Indian Armed Forces which is quite dynamic, even when it may not appear to be so. In fact change is the only constant thing in the Armed Forces. However Army is not an Employment Exchange, it is not a Experimental Institution to usher in Social or Political changes, it is not a Public or Private Sector Under taking of Govt of India and is quite different from even the civil departments of the Government. A new idea may be most path breaking and excellent in all respects but can be permitted in the Army, only if it increases the Combat Potential, otherwise as far as the Army is concerned, it is useless. Just remember that in WAR there is no SILVER MEDAL. Services Selection Boards reject a candidate like Amitabh Bachhan on this very ground.
Madam, presently the Indian Army is simply not ready to implement your DEMAND of giving Combat Role to Women and no one should try and compel it to do so. India neither has any existential threat similar to Israel nor like many Countries it has any shortage of military age males ready to serve in the Army. So there is no urgency or need to do any thing in haste, just to satisfy demands of Equality etc. The Army after carrying out a study has presently decided to enrol Women Soldiers in the Corps of Military Police. This will entail posting in of even Women Officers into CMP from those serving in ASC, AOC and others.
Next there will be opening up of the Services Corps. Even today after nearly 70 years of Women Officers in the Army Medical Corps, not even one Captain has served on the Forward Posts as Regimental Medical Officer ( though not their fault ) because Army is not yet ready to face the likely consequences and is our Society ready to accept it ? Here we are not talking about the problems of grizzly male soldiers taking orders from young women Officers, or of insubordination or problems faced in a Co educational School or College.
We are talking about living together in the barracks 24*7, training together,Combat exercising together and even entertaining together as cohesive fighting Sections/Platoons and Companies must do. During peace time in peace areas, things can still be managed though with considerable burden but what about field areas and isolated prolonged deployments.
Forward Defended Localities lack even basic amenities and Conveniences of daily life, which we take it for granted, there is psychological problem of separation from the family and even the society at large, the fear of death and to this we are going to add other numerous problems ….simplest one will be the detailment of a two person patrol into the NO MANS LAND to man the listening post ….should it be two males or two females or one each?
Who should be sent on leave first, a male soldier receiving news of birth of his child o or a female soldier with a year old child at home ? Mam, Army is not worried about peeping toms or a Superior seeking favour from subordinate, it knows how to take care of this. It is more worried about the situation which will invariably present itself when subordinates may start dishing out favours.
So once the Indian society is ready to face and accept the consequences of letting combat Companies comprising mix of 18 to 25 age group males and females with surging hormones to man the FDLs then the Indian Army will be ready to open the combat Supports Arms to the women and finally even the Armoured Corps and the Infantry …which incidentally is called the Queen of Battle (try and find out why it is called so ).
Mam, as a beginning, perhaps try and convince a grand daughters of yours to join the IPS or IAS and then volunteer for two Year’s attachment with an infantry battalion deployed on Line of Control. Then she should submit her report to the COAS with a copy to the Raksha Mantri, perhaps Army will then be ready to implement it.