Women in Combat: A Lady Officer Opines
Gen Bipin Rawat announced that Indian Army is not prepared to take women in combat citing various reasons mainly flagging incapabilities of different echelons primary being the Jawans who he fear will not be taking orders from a woman commander.
I would like to bring out that this problem has long been solved . It actually started twenty six years back and as time progressed ; the same Army jawans have adapted very well to taking orders from women officers . Let me remind everyone out there that Gen Rawat is portraying as if there will be a war and a freshly inducted woman commander will be sent to the forward post same day and she will fail miserably . Oh try that tactics with any male officer Sir. Even a freshly inducted male officer who isn’t familiar with those Jawans will fail . The Jawans have their way of testing their bosses irrespective of the gender . After having spent 14 years in the Army and having struggled hard to tell the organisation that I am not a woman ; I finally learnt a very good thing about the Jawans of Indian Army . They react / respond to the tone and demeanor of the officer and not to the gender of the officer !The bond does not grow overnight . It builds up gradually . And Rawat sir , no one’s asking you to induct lady officers just when the war in the country is declared . The induction should be now and both the parties will grow to adapt to each other’s mindset . If our country who was primarily male dominated and had rural males in abundance yet could accept being led as a country by a woman prime minister decades back , I think it’s irrelevant to blame the Jawans of today’s generation when they can access internet / social media and actually have evolved mentally .
I cite a very practical example of these Jawans who are repeatedly being misquoted for their mindset .
Twenty five years back , the Jawans did not know how to react / respond to women officers. The gender difference was evident then .Everyday there was a chaos in some or the other unit . The Jawans were curious and confused . I have multiple incidences that I faced myself in my first unit . They refused to salute me . They complained against the lady officers for not having dinner in time in the officers mess . They did not stand in savdhaan as I passed orders to them . They came up with silly excuses at a very serious situation like having lost a jawan in a military vehicle accident and I being the Transport officer yet wasn’t informed at the time of incident at midnight. The JCO thought since I was a lady what was the use of even informing me !
But as days passed there were situations where I as a leader saved the very same men at the most improper time . Examples are numerous : I could successfully divert a python attack on one of the platoon; and instead a monkey was made the prey . How I saved the senior IAS officer from being kidnapped by the gurkhas who had cordoned off our fauji vehicle in demand of a separate gorkhaland !
How I ran into the dense burning forest to extinguish the fire in order to save hundreds of my Jawans . How on my first day of inter unit drill competition , my voice was not heard by the jawan marching right behind me and they were frustrated to have me as their marching commander since they feared our team would lose. After days of challenging myself with rigorous practices and eating mulethi to clear my throat so as to ensure my voice reaches the last of the jawan in my 50 men contingent . And we won the trophy imagine !
Gradually the same Jawans could be seen restoring full faith in my leadership . They were however still confused but I allowed them to clear their confusions . When one of them while taking bath in the open unit lines langar area spotted me ; he stood up wearing his underwear and came to saavdhan and loudly wished me “Jai Hind Saheb”. I returned his salutations without making him feel small .
I learnt to drive the ‘One Ton’ with the help of my MT NCO i.e.the jawan who was an expert driver of the military vehicles . I would take instructions from him and he soon learnt that I wasn’t any bit different than a young male officer with similar interest .
The rapport got build up not in a day but over a period of time . I committed mistakes and may be offended the Jawans but I was quick to ask for forgiveness . Soon it was as if we are one big family . The egos had faded and the Jawans coming from rural background began accepting we the lady officers as good human beings first then capable individuals and lastly as their strong powerful leaders !
It was a game changer era…two decades back and every lady officer then invested herself for the organisation – for each of its component from Jawans to officers to equipments to weapons !
So the stage has long been set by the pioneer lady officers of the initial batches. Every year new milestones have been added by the lady officers since then . If men from rural background were that stubborn then there would have been no parades where the lady officer commands and In Fact there would be mayhem in the entire Indian Army units where lady officers have been sent on posting . But nothing of sorts happened . Which proves two things- one that the Jawans are not that backward as portrayed repeatedly . They are a progressive lot as well . So please acknowledge their progression . After all they belong to the same nation which is already moving ahead in a fast pace.
Second it proves that the women officers have actually worked hard to diminish the lines of identities based on the gender .
After fauj sent me home in 14 years I was lucky to join an organisation wherein I deal with ex servicemen.They are old and less enthusiastic and they haven’t actually seen women leaders as most of them are from infantry . Since here also I was the pioneer one, they were hostile initially but when they saw me standing tall with them performing all duties as difficult as they had seen the male officers do and fire the very weapon they are carrying as any other male officer does , they realize we have come out from the same Indian Army!
Now they relate to my orders and perform all what is expected out of them as subordinates . Why ? Because they are also aware of the changes our nation is going through . So many Jawans have brought their daughters for guidance to me as they are going to join Defence forces .
Regarding the peeping issue , Gen Rawat has brought out; it’s sad that we are highlighting our Jawans in a bad light . There’s a moral code of conduct in every organization and any one breaking those rules shall be punished .I am so hopeful about that for Indian Army too because it has strong value system of moral conduct.
Women coming home in body bags : yes it’s not such a bright visual but for that matter even a male coming home in a body bag is equally heartbreaking .
The last point I would like to clarify is regarding women commanders proceeding on maternity leaves while they are commanding a unit .
Dear Gen Rawat sir, please don’t get influenced by the movie “Badhai Ho”. By the time lady officers will reach commanding a unit stage they will already be done with availing two maternity leaves !
In a nation where paramilitary and police officers women are volunteering to get posted in the heart of naxalite areas and where during Kargil Operations Army women officers had not cribbed once for being posted far flung away from families or that she was finding difficult to get the Jawans obey her orders ; Gen Rawat making such bizarre statements sounds ridiculous .
I had volunteered myself in 1998 to go as the First Lady officer in Counter Insurgency area and after that a trend was set as it eliminated the anxiety of the top brass sitting in the posting directorate in Army HQ.
So we basically need certain actions in the present times :firstly army to do ground research work and make a case study with all the loopholes found on the ground level . Second for God’s sake make policy for the existing lady officers future prospect in terms of promotion/ retirement benefits and even their resettlement .
The last not the least I urge Gen Rawat to consider making a committee that has senior serving or retired lady officers and then create a think tank for all possible aspects for women officers . It’s not going to be that harmful as you are thinking sir . The male officers who are your trusted advisors are not doubted but having a lady officer will make a sufficient impact which since last 26 years has been in a real fluid state sadly ( uptil now no lady officer is consulted for any decision regarding women officers even though the senior serving lady officers are about to celebrate their 50th birthday !)
Don’t be scared sir . Don’t keep us separated . The Jawans have accepted us and there’s no doubt about it . It’s only the male officers who need to accept us.We are trained to be loyal and we will stand by the organisation’s paramount interest . Just give us the basic platform happily and not forcibly as per the orders of the honorable Supreme Court .