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The sad case of Shanti Tigga: Whither women in the Indian army?

The sad case of Shanti Tigga: Whither women in the Indian army?


Mon, 20 May 2013 15:30:00 GMT | By Christina Daniels

Even as local tribals demanded an enquiry into her death, allegations have surfaced that she had been at the receiving end of money in exchange for recruitment opportunities within the railways. It was two years ago that Shanti Tigga scaled yet another male bastion, when she became India’s first woman jawan. Till then, women had only joined the armed forces as officers in the non-combat units. But this 35-year-old, single-mother mother of two, outperformed her male colleagues to earn the right to become the only woman combatant in India’s 1.3 million strong defence force, and she was felicitated by none other than the country’s first woman president.

But two years later, the mood is more somber. On a night, after she had been on duty for close to 36 hours at the Chalsa station, Tigga was kidnapped by a group of unidentified persons. She was later found tied to a post at the Deopani village railway track. Though Tigga said she had not been harmed physically, she was admitted to a local hospital. Three days later, she hung herself in the hospital bathroom.
Even as local tribals demanded an enquiry into her death, allegations have surfaced that she had been at the receiving end of money in exchange for recruitment opportunities within the railways.

As both a woman and a tribal pioneer, Shanti’s tremendous battle against the odds should have been a source of inspiration. Yet her tragic end makes us contemplate the support that woman pioneers need once they have breached a male bastion. How do we ensure that these women remain on the path to high achievement and become role models for other women? It’s not enough for us to simply celebrate our women achievers. How do we help them reach even greater heights?

Tigga’s death has also once again put the spotlight on women in the army in India. Why are they so few and far between? And does the army have women-friendly policies? While Tigga was the first woman to qualify as a combatant, we are yet to have women as commanding officers. This is at a time when Pakistan welcomed its first female three-star general, Shahida Badshah two years ago.

But in India, it’s a long and lonely journey for women in the army. And they make their ascent carrying a heavy burden. As they bear the aspirations of their communities, when they fail the scrutiny gets more intense than it is for their male colleagues. So when Tigga succeeded, all Indian women succeeded with her. And when Tigga failed, all Indian women failed with her.

In other fields too, the climb to the top has always been steeper for women achievers, and their fall. This has to change, if women are to lose their inhibitions and storm the last standing male bastions.

Christina Daniels is a Writer, Poet, Marcom Editor, Photographer and Traveler. She is the author of “I’ll Do It My Way: The Incredible Journey of Aamir Khan” and “Ginger Soda Lemon Pop”. She has also co-authored ‘Mind Blogs 1.0.

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