Military & Aerospace

Your Lordships should Trust the Wisdom of Armed Forces
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 21 Mar , 2020

In a recent judgement, Your Lordships have directed the government to extend permanent commissions and command postings to women in the Indian Navy. Your asseveration is that by not doing so, ‘level playing field’ is being denied to the women personnel. At the outset, it is submitted that the very word ‘level’ used in this context is matter of perception. In the highly evolved and well considered popular perception in India and within the armed forces, we certainly do not want women to be brought down from ‘higher nation-building pedestal’ to a lower ‘level playing field’ of direct combat, as Your Lordships have suggested. As far as pensioner benefits are concerned, it totally falls under the different realm of terms of contract.

Your Lordships may be aware that Shaheen Bagh has nothing to do with CAA. It is externally sponsored jihadi proxy war as underscored by Anti-India, and Pro-Pakistan slogans.

The Hon’ble judges also said: “the battle for gender equality is about the confronting the battles of the mind”. Hon’ble Justice Chandrachud further said: “History is replete with examples, where women have been denied their just entitlements under law and the right to fair and equal treatment in the workplace. In the context of Armed Forces, specious reasons have been advanced by decision makers and administrators. They range from physiology, motherhood and physical attributes to the male dominated hierarchies. A hundred and one excuses are no answer to the constitutional entitlement to dignity, which attaches to every individual irrespective of gender, to fair and equal conditions of work and to a level playing field. A level playing field ensures that women have the opportunity to overcome their histories of discrimination with the surest of responses based on their competence, ability and performance.”

The comments of the Lordships on ‘Gender Equality’ are laudable, but we Indians are even evolved beyond ‘gender sensitivity’. Had it not been for this sensitivity and respect, we would have surely acted in Shaheen Bagh, where women continue to block roads despite Corona Virus. We have gone to the extent of promoting this sensitivity even in the face of imminent epidemic threat with pernicious portends. The men who caused communal riots in Delhi, in fact, took inspiration and carried spark from these very women in Shaheen Bagh. It persists, because Shaheen Bagh serves as the fuel to keep the jihadi pot boiling, and calibrate the proxy war. The stakes are very high, because too much of external investment has gone into the project.

Your Lordships may be aware that Shaheen Bagh has nothing to do with CAA. It is externally sponsored jihadi proxy war as underscored by Anti-India, and Pro-Pakistan slogans. Security forces did not crackdown even though the activities of these women could be seen as anti-national. Under similar circumstances and provocations, Security Forces did not act in Kashmir for many years, even at the cost of the lives of many security personnel. The Security Forces were not indiscriminate even when women were increasingly used as shields. I, therefore, most humbly disagree with the asseveration of Your Lordships that the Armed Forces has trifled with the dignity of women in any manner.

It is a known fact that Indian soldiers were hardly afflicted by venereal diseases during the World War-II. In the armies of the most Western countries, it had spread like Corona Virus.

If indeed, the Security Forces had treated these women jihadis and proxy soldiers through the same prism, as they did in case of jihadi men, God knows how heavily Your Lordships would have rained down on them. Operational imperatives demand that all jihadis, whether women or men, Andrabi or Masrat Alam, are subjected to the same counter-proxy war methods and machinery. We desisted from leveling the operational field. Nevertheless, and arguably so, all these years of denial of level playing field in favour of women jihadis and proxy soldiers has cost the nation enormously. So denial of ‘level playing field’ by armed forces within the organization is unthinkable.

Shaheen Bagh has come into mention because it is very much part of Pak sponsored jihadi hybrid war, which has travelled from Kashmir to the National Capital. This also a war of the Third Front. The Maoists are also feeding into this war and utilized the forum provided by the Shaheen Bagh jihadis.

The then Minister of State for Home, RPN Singh, in response to a question in Lok Sabha had said that one-third Maoists attacks are led by women cadres. If that be the case of Jihadi terror and Maoist terror, Your Lordship, then the Courts should have no misgivings about ‘Gender Impartial operations’.

It is submitted, in all humanity, to Your Lordships that different countries have different threat perceptions, based on their geographical, sociological, historical and economic realities. India being a civilizational nation-state, does not need to take cue on the basic approach to warfare and the underlying ethos that govern it specially from the West. It is a known fact that Indian soldiers were hardly afflicted by venereal diseases during the World War-II. In the armies of the most Western countries, it had spread like Corona Virus. Any accusation of ‘gender insensitivity’ or ‘gender bias’ is therefore unfortunate. In this respect history’s verdict is solidly in favour of Indian Armed Forces.

The British under the expansionist phase, fought various wars, i.e. Anglo-Maratha wars, Anglo-Gurkha war, Anglo-Sikh war and Anglo-Burmese war. More than 80 percent of the soldiers who participated in these wars were Indians, who fought under the banner of East India Company. Do we lament history that why did Indian women did not participate in these wars? Do we lament that why Indian women did not engage in combat during World War-1 and World War-II? Is it our lament that why women were not fielded in the Mahabharat? In fact, Bhism Pitamah chose to spend his last days on ‘bed of arrows’, created by Arjuna because he had refused to combat a woman concealed in Shikhandi. Indiscriminate lament of history therefore can be very dangerous. Moreover, Indian soldiers take pride in being inheritors of legacy of Bhism and Chatrapati Shivaji Mahraj, with regard to treatment of women in war zone. Bhism and Shivaji are separated by thousands of years. I wonder if there is any need for judicial interventions by a system of jurisprudence whose soul was created by the British.

The Maoists in the Red Corridor have found a crude way to overcome these problems. Maoist leaders allow their men and women cadres to marry each other only when the males agree to undergo vasectomy.

Before independence, more so before the World Wars, the British threat perception was entirely global or internal. India inherited much of its present day 15000 kilometers of land frontier and 7500 kilometers of sea coast after independence. Two-third of this frontier came to be shared with two hostile states, i.e. Pakistan (East and West) and China. This constituted massive challenge to a fledgling nation-state. The frontiers straddle terrain from 20,000 feet altitude to the plains, deserts and Rann of Kutch. This was not merely an operational but a logistical nightmare as well. The resources were limited, and pay and infrastructure were meager. The economy of the country was basically agrarian. Thanks to this agrarian base that India was able to maintain its forces at optimum levels. It is this agrarian base that provided hardy and patriotic men. For these men, soldiering was not possible without stability back in their homes. Rural India with joint-family system was a perfect support base for these men.

If we open all the avenues for women in the armed forces, then concomitantly, women will have to share the same encumbrances as men. If the Hon’ble Judges, as they have averred, consider the armed forces as a ‘workplace’, then all other basic provisions applicable to other places of work would be applicable to them. For instance, they will have the same rights to marry a male-colleague. A lady-submariner will have the rights to marry a male-submariner, and then by corollary could demand to be posted together on the same submarine. Who will look after the children? If the demand is not met and they are posted on different submarines because of operational exigencies, the problem would still persist. This is certainly not any stretch of negative imagination.

The Maoists in the Red Corridor have found a crude way to overcome these problems. Maoist leaders allow their men and women cadres to marry each other only when the males agree to undergo vasectomy. One well-known social worker has been carrying out these vasectomy operations in the Red Corridor in the garb of social work. This culture was adopted because most Maoist couples were deserting the militant cadres once they had children.

…there is a great accent on ‘Samudri Jihad’ by various jihadi outfits in Pakistan. The Quranic concept of warfare and the jihadi warfare sanction the loot of wealth and women. This reality cannot be ignored.

The biggest sin that we can perpetrate ourselves by taking sociological cues from armed forces of the Western countries. Most of the European countries and the US have no hostile borders. Their deployment is majorly overseas. The European armed forces are in state of decay. Their contribution to the US military effort in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere is just symbolic. Our borders are hostile. We have a jihadi enemy in the form of Pakistan. The jihadi component in all Indo-Pak wars was predominant. The so-called tribal invasion of Kashmir in 1947-48 was a jihadi invasion. In 1965 war, Operation Gibraltar was a jihadi infiltration. In 1971 war, the Jamait-e-Islami fielded two brigades in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, i.e. Al-Badr brigade and Al-Shams brigade. The Kargil conflict in 1999 had jihadi underpinnings. The proxy-war by Pakistan launch three decades ago is entirely jihadi in nature. And now there is a great accent on ‘Samudri Jihad’ by various jihadi outfits in Pakistan. The Quranic concept of warfare and the jihadi warfare sanction the loot of wealth and women. This reality cannot be ignored.

One wonders what would be the reaction in the country to a Capt Saurabh Kalia type jihadi treatment to a women soldier!

We do not have the powers to change the scriptures. Sending sex-slaves to Syria is absolutely in accordance with the scriptures. If we really are keen on a ‘level playing field’, then it cannot be by excluding Muslim women and for that we will have to change the scriptures and bring in Uniform Civil Code. This is just one example of Indian sociological facet.

Your Lordships there are no runners-ups in wars! It is the sacred duty of adversarial countries to be prepared for war and maximize their strengths and minimize their vulnerabilities. Not pitting our brave women against jihadis in direct combat is one such way to minimize these vulnerabilities. Women are far stronger than men in terms of psychological and moral strength. The dirty work of direct combat engagements is best left to men Your Lordships.

One wonders what would be the reaction in the country to a Capt Saurabh Kalia type jihadi treatment to a women soldier!

Given the sociological realities, the Indian Armed Forces, more than any organization in the country has provided a ‘level playing field’ to all castes, classes and regions. We have been more than sensitive to the vicissitudes of the geographic and linguistic spread of this country. We have tailored our armed forces to cater to the special physical attributes of men joining the armed forces. There are regiments in the army, where six feet height is an imperative, however there are also regiments where the minimum height, a little above five feet is acceptable as in the case of Gurkhas. Is it anybody’s case that we should recruit Gurkha women also in the ranks to provide a ‘level playing field’? If it comes to ‘level playing field’, will Your Lordships suggest the Olympic Committee to remove the men and women segment from the Olympic Games?

The armed forces, Your Lordships, is certainly not a workplace. It is one of the oldest professions, which has evolved over centuries. The present judicial system in India, Your Lordships, is just 70 years old, with of course the roots going back to 1860s and 70s. The judicial language changed from Persian to English in not a distant past, but ethos of our troops continues to be embedded in their regional culture and their vernacular.

Certainly Your Lordships should intervene if any wrong has been committed by the armed forces or if there is any breach of contract between the recruiters and the recruited, but with due respect I may submit that composition of armed forces, wars, and training for wars, are issues best left to the wisdom of the leaders of the (Indian) armed forces and the security establishment of the country.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

RSN Singh

is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research and Analysis Wing, or R&AW and author of books Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and The Military Factor in Pakistan. His latest book is The Unmaking of Nepal.

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5 thoughts on “Your Lordships should Trust the Wisdom of Armed Forces

  1. A superb and well researched article which the Honorable Courts should take note of. There are no runners up in war and justifiably the matter should be left to Military leaders to take a call on organizing the fighting machine of the nation.

  2. Very well put. Our judiciary’s directions are unpredictable. Shahin Bagh handling by the judiciary resulted in Delhi riots. They keep pending or allow unscrupulous lawyers to manipulate the system. People’s faith in judiciary as instrument of last resort is eroding. People therefore , decide to decide the cases themselves. Flying a plane and fight on front line like Capt Batra are two different things.

  3. The Delhi Shaheen Bagh like scenes that played out last month in some parts of the country in fact may have appeared communal riots but there was more to it. These were the works engineered by pseudo NGOHR ,political, religious leaders blaming each other for selfish political gains.Unfortunately, the Delhi Police the silent spectators waiting for orders. DelhiGovt wanting the HM to act (as police is under the Centre) and the Centrewanting Kejriwal to act. The sad part was that no one wanted to be the bad Guyas Delhi elections were around the corner. As a CM Ibelieve it is his duty to look after his state. Had the CM asked for the Centre’shelp in terms of police force or CRPF the assistance would not have beenrefused and the situation that exists today would not have been what it is.Shaheen Bagh by itself has become a Coronavirus time bomb for the nation and we still fail to resolve! Dadis and Nanis act as the front face backed by elements not interested in the progress of the nation for their short term selfish motives. These so called unethical leaders lowered India’s image in the eye’s of the world.A sad commentary. WHY NOT DEPLOY THE CRPF MAHILLA BN TO REMOVE THE Dadis and Nanis from Shaheen Bagh

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