Indian history is replete with examples of women warriors who are still alive in public memory. Some well-known examples are Laxmibai of Jhansi, Ahilyadevi Holkar of Indore, Rudrama Devi of Kakatiya dynasty and Rani Durgavati of Gondawana. During Indian National Army’s (INA) fight against British, there used to be a Rani Jhansi Brigade within the INA. The worship of Nari Shakti has been an integral part of Indian ethos and culture.
Although women have been inducted as officers in armed forces in India, they have been considered as incapable of playing the role of a soldier in Army for several reasons – “a glass ceiling” in the usual sense of the term. Women were only allowed in limited areas such as signals and engineering, legal, medical, educational roles etc. Thus, the induction of women so far in the armed forces have been driven by a gender-centric view.
As per the Indian constitution, the armed forces are exempt from the provision of the Right to Equality in terms of employment as a fundamental right. In addition, the induction of women into armed forces is governed by separate laws. Therefore, a sanction by the government through special notification is mandatory to induct women in various roles.
It is in this regard that Modi government can be distinguished from the tokenism of previous regimes. Several steps have been taken for a wider role for women in defence of India. It is the Modi government which has given a first full-fledged woman defence minister to India. Then the Navika Sagar Parikrama, the first successful circumnavigation of the globe by an all-woman team of naval officers, had demonstrated the backing of the government behind such an expedition.
Again, it is during the Modi regime when the first batch of three women officers were inducted in the fighter stream of Indian Air Force. Modi government has also granted approval for introduction of women Short Service Commission Officers (SSC) as Pilots in Maritime Reconnaissance (MR) stream and in the Naval Armament Inspectorate (NAI) cadre. Indeed, India has introduced first woman pilot in the Indian Navy under Modi regime.
To this end, demonstrating further resolve of the government, PM Modi has announced opportunity for permanent commission for women officers as a gift on Independence Day.
“Women officers commissioned in short service will get the opportunity for a permanent commission like their male counterparts.” – PM Modi
Recently, government has begun the process to induct women in the Corps of Military Police.
This is the first time when women will be taken as soldiers. As military police personnel, women will play various roles such as handling prisoners of war, serving as a part of UN Mission forces across the globe, among other things. It is a step taken towards introducing women in combat roles in the Army.
With technological advancements, warfare is also changing. In future wars, technology will have a key role with less room for the so-called ‘muscular’ aspect of war. The steps taken by the Modi government will certainly provide the impetus for unleashing the potential of ‘Nari Shakti’. The paradigm shift to an Army with more women is visible now under the Modi government.