Sisters in arms on China vigil
|Women ITBP soldiers disband to meet their families after their pictures were clicked with home minister P Chidambaram in Haryana on Friday. (Gajinder Singh)|
Bhanu (Haryana), Jan. 29: Forget saris and bangles, Deepali Roy today got her dream outfit and accessory — a paramilitary uniform and an Insas rifle.
The village girl from Jalpaiguri was one of 209 trainees who today formed the first armed women’s contingent of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), which guards the China border.
“Urdi portey bhishon bhalo lage. Urdi porey aar haate weapon niye chola deshke bachabar jonne shob theke bhalo kaaj. Aar poribarer bhobishyot bhalo hobe (I love the uniform. Wearing it and carrying a gun to ensure the country’s security is the best thing one can do. It will provide my family with a better future too),” Deepali said.
Her mother or father, who tills a small plot in Dakkhin Chakokheti village and occasionally works as a labourer to sustain his family of six, could not attend the passing-out parade at the ITBP’s basic training centre here.
“Jalpaiguri is too far away. It would have cost them a lot to come here,” she said softly as her eyes turned moist watching many of her batch-mates hugging and kissing their parents in the presence of home minister P. Chidambaram.
Most of the recruits come from poor backgrounds. They are the daughters of midwives, labourers, farmers and police constables from places as far away as Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, Tamil Nadu and Jharkhand.
Rubi, from Digboi in Assam, was proud to be the first from her family to join the security forces. “Did you see us marching? Can anyone say we are the weaker sex?” she sounded excited.
“You must come to watch us shoot and practise martial arts. We are second to none and will prove ourselves when the going gets tough,” Rubi added, her fists clenching almost involuntarily.
Pride shone on the parents’ faces.
“Apki beti hai; kaisa lag raha hai force me bhej kar (how does it feel to send your daughter to the force)?” Chidambaram asked one of the parents.
“It’s a great day for us,” Leela Guhar from Yavatmal, Maharashtra, told this correspondent as she shoved a cake into the mouth of daughter Sheetal.
The girls’ duties, wherever they are posted, will range from escorting Kailash-Mansarovar pilgrims and guarding the border to intelligence-gathering and VVIP security.
All the women underwent 44 weeks’ training since last February, doing gruelling drills and learning to handle weapons, read maps and gather intelligence. They took courses in vigilance, yoga, unarmed combat (judo), commando tactics and the management of natural calamities.
They will now be given intensive counter-insurgency, jungle warfare and bomb disposal training in Uttarakhand so that an independent women’s battalion can be raised in future with four companies of around 100 personnel each.
The 209 recruited as constables today include seven postgraduates. The next batch of 145 women trainees will be recruited in May.
Male jawans and officers cheered the women at the parade. “It’s a great day for our force as women will now hold arms like us. I feel proud,” said trainer A. Srikumar.
The ITBP, formed on October 24, 1962, guards the 3,488km China border from the Karakoram Pass in Ladakh to Diphu La in Arunachal Pradesh, manning outposts at altitudes of up to 18,500 feet. It also provides security to VVIPs and certain sensitive installations.
The BSF had deployed women to guard the borders in September last year.