Republic Day in India is celebrated annually as a National Festival all over the country to commemorate and honour the day when the Constitution of India came into force, as the governing document of India. Republic day is a reminder that the freedom we have today is because of the sacrifices that are involved in it and it gives us a lot of pride to be an Indian. A lot of credit goes to Indian Armed Forces for making the Republic India what it is today.
The Indian Armed Force keeps our interests safe, our enemies at bay and the people of our country secure and free. They are respected and adored for their valour and sense of duty by the entire country. But what actually inspired them to join the Indian Armed Forces?
Colonel Girijesh Pandey, who has served in Indian Army for over 27 years, says, “It’s the uniform.” He continues, “I did my schooling from Dehradun where the renowned Indian Military Academy is also present, so seeing the cadets moving around in uniform was a regular sight. So, the charm of the uniform always stayed with me throughout my childhood.”
Delshad Master, who has been a Squadron leader in the Indian Air Force for 10 years, says that “I always wanted a life in uniform but when I was studying, women were not allowed in the Indian Armed Forces. So, my choice was to pass the UPSC exam and join the police, but when I was in the 10th standard, I clearly remember seeing the headline on a newspaper with the picture of the first batch of women officers passing out of officers training academy. That was the time I decided that I’ll try for the Indian army. When I was doing my post graduation that’s when I applied for the army and air force. I never really got any reply from the army but I was selected in the Indian Air Force.”
India is on track to become the youngest country in the world by 2020, with a median age of 29, highlighting the outsized role of it millennial generation in spurring growth. Like every generation before them, millennials carry a vast array of interests, hobbies, and views of the world that they work and play in. When asked about the today’s generation and their millennial style of living, Commander Vidya Shree said that the Indian government should make it compulsory for all students to serve at least five years in the army. On the other hand, Colonel Jaideep Misra, who has served in Indian Army for 22 years, had a completely different point of view. According to him, every individual contributes towards the development of the nation in some way or the other.
In September 2018, the Supreme Court of India made a historical judgement by repealing the archaic Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. Their decision legalizes gay sex between consenting adults and comes as a much-deserved win for the Indian LGBTQ+ community.
Few days ago, Indian Army General Bipin Rawat gave a very controversial statement saying that “gay sex in the army is unacceptable”.
“Aap logon me chalega to chalne do. Humare yahan nahi chalega (We will not allow this to happen in the Army) In the army LGBT issues… are not unacceptable. We will still be dealing with them under various sections of the Army Act,”
Colonel Pandey says that he agrees with the chief and supports the statement, while Sqn Ldr Delshad is in the support of the decision taken by Supreme Court. “India decriminalizing section 377 was a very wonderful news. What does a person do in his/her personal time in their bedroom should not be anyone else’s business. It had to be done,” she said. Although she believes that we still have a long way to go.
“We have won a battle but the war is not over yet. I honestly found General Rawat’s statement very disturbing, you cannot judge anyone’s fighting ability, fitness and the capability to defend their nation by their sexuality. It just does not matter.” she added.
According to Colonel Jaideep, “Sexual preference is something which is very personal. Just because the law deemed it as an unnatural act hundred years ago does not mean we cannot evolve ourselves and accept the sexual preferences of the people now. But an individual’s requirement is something different in comparison to an organization’s requirement. The culture of the majority of our troops are from the rural villages. The acceptance of LGBT+ people is still very minuscule in these areas. Which is why the acceptance of LGBT+ people for the troops in armed forces becomes quite difficult.”
“Today the Indian armed forces might not seem as inclusive as you’d want them to be but we will slowly but surely get there!”
In today’s India, there are no domains of work that women haven’t delved into. Words such as chairman and cameraman have been rephrased as chairperson and cameraperson, to accommodate women. But when it comes to the Indian army, the percentage of women in the Indian army in comparison to men is still very low. Commander Vidya Shree says that with every passing year, we are seeing more and more women applicants who want to join the Indian Armed Forces, the percentage is increasing by folds every year.
According her experience in the Indian Air Force, Sqn Ldr Delshad said that, “In the army it is a bit different, they actually engage in close quarter combat, so females are still not permitted to fight in the front line whereas air force doesn’t directly engage with the enemy on the personal level, so women are placed even on the forward bases, they undertake all the task that their male counterparts do. The equality factor is much greater in the Air force in comparison to the Army.”
She adds, “We don’t get treated differently. I heard some Major commented that women cannot do all the duties because they cringe too much. That is so not true. In the Indian Air Force, we go through all the similar training which men do. In fact, we are much better than them in performing some of the duties.”
When asked about the reason behind the percentage of women in India Armed Forces in comparison to men, Colonel Jaideep says, “The number is not few, it is always the proportion which comes into play. Today, women are more suitable in certain areas of the armed forces and on the basis of that these women officers are getting inducted into the organization. Every organization will have a mix of male and female domination. Even in the corporate today, the number of female employees is lesser than the male. The organizations have certain constraints, especially an organization like Indian Army because the troops operate in a certain type of environment which automatically creates some restrictions where women cannot be employed. When that happens, the ratio goes accordingly.”
Colonel Pandey had a different view when asked about females role in the Indian army. According to him most of the plush postings have been hijacked by the female personnel.
When asked what message would they like to give the youth of India on this Republic Day, Sqn Ldr Delshad says that the biggest problem we’re facing right now is the ‘brain drain’. The youth of India must think about the country and its future. “Yes, it is true that they can make tons of money by going abroad but them being in a free country and living a happy life couldn’t have been possible if someone else hadn’t sacrificed their youth on the border. Even if they don’t want to join Armed Forces, they can still spare a thought for them,” she adds. Colonel Jaideep said that, “know yourself and change for the betterment of the nation which will result in a chain reaction. Every person in the country can bring change by changing oneself towards the development of the country. Don’t ask what country can do for you but ask what you can do for your country.”