By Shibika Suresh:
“When going gets tough, Tough gets going. Sleep peacefully at your homes, Indian Army is guarding frontiers.”
It seems that the Indian army has an acute shortage of soldiers and officersÂ ‘guarding the frontiers’. And that they are in desperate need of young, hot-blooded men to fight India’s wars and keep the nation safe. Why else, would they bring out advertisements like the following for recruiting personnel?
“If you want to have beautiful and successful daughters, join Indian Army” says the advertisement put up by the Army Headquarters in Shillong, for recruitment. It carried pictures of ‘beautiful and successful’ Bollywood actresses like Sushmita Sen, Priyanka Chopra, Gul Panag, Nupur Mehta, Celina Jaitley and Anushka Sharma, with the defence background in a daft, dim-witted attempt to attract youth to join the Army. The Army office in Shillong reported that the the officers in the recruiting centre had not taken permission for placing the billboard. The advertisement came into notice through (no prizes for guessing) social media, when people starting posting it on Twitter and Facebook.
We live in a kind of country and a kind of time where on one hand, women are put on a pedestal, and the nation we live in is described as ‘Mother India’, and on the other hand, 5-year-old girls are gagged and raped, and policemen go around slapping female protesters. It, therefore, should come as no surprise if the defence forces propagate the view that being a soldier in the army will guarantee a man the exact sperms that are required to produce a ‘beautiful and successful’ daughter. Also, it could also mean that only if a girl has an Army jawaan for a father will she be successful, honourable and beautiful, which would not be the case if the girl was not brought up in an Army family. This advertisement onlyÂ fortifies the typecasts feminists fight everyday. Delineating a woman by her relationship to another person(read: man) rather than as a person in her own right is the reason for the sad plight of the status of a woman in India.
Gul Panag, whose picture was printed on the billboard, tweeted:
“About the join army ‘ad’.Whether in jest or not,I have no problem with it. I owe 100% of what I am to my AF upbringing. Proud of it. @rwac48”
– Gul Panag (@GulPanag) April 14, 2013
May I say, Ms. Panag, that this is theÂ single-mostÂ ridiculous thing which has been done by the Indian army for quite a while, and that your support of this advertisement ‘in jest or not’ may also be read as: Only an army family upbringing can give a woman a safe, successful, glamorous and honourable life. And this is very ironic as thousands of innocent women even till date are being raped everyday in Manipur and other parts of north-east India by the very same people who ‘guard the frontiers’. There is no doubt that the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers ActÂ is the single most direct instrument violating the democratic rights of the people(especially women) of the North East and of Jammu and Kashmir. The world’s longest hunger strike of Irom ‘Iron’ Sharmila to repeal this law, is not unheard of.
Instead of coming up with such ludicrous, outlandish advertisements to recruit soldiers, the Army Office should dig deep and find out why the need to provide youngsters with such absurd incentives arose in the first place. Why did a need arise to glamorise the whole idea of patriotism and defendingÂ the country, andÂ labelingÂ only certain A-Grade Bollywood actresses as ‘beautiful and successful’? It seems to imply that had they not been from a certain Army background, they would not have been successful. Another point here is why only posterize actresses for recruitment and why not Bollywood actors like Akshay Kumar, Shiney Ahuja and Rajeev Khandelwal who are also ‘successful’? Do we see a tinge of irony and chauvinism?