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The Curious Case Of The Absentee Women In The Indian Army

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By Sirisha Akshintala:

Men make roads; but it is the women who teach children how to walk on them.” Hence a woman is a power who can be the root cause for a change. India is a country where a woman is given a lot of respect and we even call it as “Mother India”. The Indian Constitution guarantees equality of opportunity for all, irrespective of sex. If it is considered as a right, then women should be allowed to join the army as well. Though women are in the armed forces, surely they are not in the field operations during wartimes. They are mostly restricted to administrative section. Indian military history has a fair share of women soldiers, Razia Sultan and the Rani of Jhansi being the most famous pre-independence. Women were also a part of the Indian National Army raised by Subhash Chandra Bose to fight against the British. Post independence, women have been serving for a long time in India especially in the Army Medical Corps (AMC), Army Dental Corps (ADC) and Military Nursing Service.

The first women army batch was employed in 1992. That was the time where women were considered for the armed forces and recruited. Yet, till date none of the women are appointed in the field sector. What is the reason for it? It is because men are physically and even emotionally stronger than women .Women may also have maternity problems. Hence, over past decades women had no chance at fieldwork especially during the time of wars.

India is a country that has limited experience with regard to the induction of women in the armed forces. Just because of some issues, women are not considered for field work and this is not the right objective. If women can fight as soldiers in LTTE and Naxalite outfits, why not in the services? In any case, even LTTE recruited women only after it fell short of male volunteers. And sadly, women held no high appointments and were generally used as pawns in indoctrinated suicide squads. Nonetheless, this can still be taken as an example for Indian army to recruit women. Currently, women officers are given short service commission in streams such as Education, Signals, Ordnance, helicopter and transport aircraft flying, navigation, and such arms and services. Statistics also says that 5,137 women officers serve in the armed forces. They include 4,101 in the army, 784 in the air force, and 252 in the navy.

Is it same in the developed countries like US, UK etc.? Not really! In 1970’s US army reluctantly recruited women and realised that women made it a better force. The sooner the generals realised it, the better became the role of women and expanded rapidly during World War II. They were mostly inducted into war industries, building ships, aircraft, vehicles, and weaponry. They provided logistic support for soldiers, and soon enough they made their way further and gained an entry into professional areas of work that were previously the preserve of men. Thousands of women joined defensive militias in countries across Europe and America. This was also the period that witnessed a perceptible increase in the number of women serving in the military.

It takes a very long time to visualize our India with the women in the army. But it is possible. Just think when we can have a woman as the President, Railway minister, Chief Ministers of various states, why can’t a woman be a part of Indian army? In our History, women hold the limelight in the war fields and bravery incidents, especially at the time of pre-independence. Jhansi’s Rani Lakshimi Bai headed an entire army and was known for her achievements, bravery feats and passion towards attaining an independent nation. One more great lady was “ Onneke Oobavva” from Karnataka, as she killed thousands of British soldiers with her small weapon masse. This can be treated as one of the greatest incident at the span of Indian independence struggle. At present we can see many women coming up and breaking the false quotes that women can’t do it! They are unfit. Now, women are in Navy, Airlines, etc. and why can’t they be in army (battle field)?

All they need is a chance and time for preparation and work, where they can showcase their strengths and explore their abilities. Undoubtedly, India will feature unconventional women who can serve the country. From interviews of women with unusual careers to success stories of enterprising homemakers, they raise their glasses to ordinary women who have done something extraordinary with their lives! What’s more? They bring us life lessons from women icons in different fields, then surely why not in armed forces. All that they need is a chance and an importance in the army to prove their talent as, “A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform.

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  1. Karmanye

    A very good article! I am a man but I fully believe in gender equality in all spheres. As regards your references to women fighting wars in Indian history, especvially the freedom struggle, I felt a glaring omission you made was of the rani of Jhansi Regiment of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army (INA), which was commanded by Capt. Lakshmi Sehgal (who passed away recently and was in the news for the same) and in fact, that was the first army in modern history to recruit vwomen in sizable numbers as combatants (even before the American Army); it’s ironic that the army of independent India then doesn’t take forward that legacy. And in the mideaval period, many queens fought wars, such as Rani Durgavati and Belawadi Balamma, and even our Hindu pantheon (this is not to say that I consider Indian non-Hindus as any less Indian) has warring goddesses like Durga and Kali.

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