The ladies are combat-ready!

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Mareaya Fayaz

WOMEN have witnessed tumultuous incidents down history. Seen as the weak gender, they have had to face the brunt of male chauvinism since the times of Ashoka. Mainly confined to home and restricted to the agricultural sector only, women were, for a long, long time, perceived as unequal to men and even inferior. But thanks to globalisation and penetration of education, women have set their own mark away from male dominance.

India is no exception. Albeit late, but the country has accepted the major role women play as combatants and have modified rules to allow participation of women on varied platforms.

One such platform has been the national defence forces. Indeed women are seen in the forces but a lot more needs to be done to ensure a bigger entry. Even though Jammu and Kashmir enjoys the above national average of literates, it has witnessed minimal inclusion of women in the forces. According to the latest data, it is just 3 per cent despite literacy rate among females not below the average national level. The reasons are numerous but the most general reason is our male dominant society.

Thanks to science and technology which have withered the barriers between genders, today, women can don uniform, hold canes and arms and take active part in combat operations and discharge their duties. But despite the fact that women of Jammu and Kashmir are second to none in the country in performing quite satisfactorily – right from managing households to teaching to practising medicine, law and other technical and non-technical professions, the police, the army, aviation, civil services and the like, the number of women in these professions is still dismal in J&K. But with administration announcing women-specific reservation in the police and the Agniveer scheme, the trend could start to rise.

There are a number of women officers working in the CRPF and the J&K police. Mansha Beigh, Sleeth Shah, Kubra Nazir, Sheema Nabi are the few officers we could name. Recently, the J&K police published a recruitment list of women constables in which females from both divisions of Jammu and Kashmir got selected.

Not too long back, women were soft targets for terrorists and pawns in the male-dominated Kashmir where, under the guise of religion and culture, they were confined to the four walls of the room. But thanks to the right to education that has provided a chance to women from poor regions to compete with their male counterparts.

Today, women forces are not meant only for frisking; but have been handling combat roles also. They bravely take part in search operations and work in cyber offices to deal with terrorists online. Their roles have intensified and diverged.  Tracking arms trails, checking/preventing drugs and narcotic smuggling, in searches and crackdowns, intelligence and similar associated areas, women personnel can show equally better results.

Additionally, even in police stations and during field duties like traffic management, crowd management and working as advisors, monitors, liaison officers and the like, they perform superbly. But it is unfortunate that there still has to be built an infrastructure like better housing and medical facilities, rest room facilities and the like so as to help ease their performance.

There are talks about doing all this but nothing concrete is being done, let alone drawing a time bound program to achieve the target of 33 per cent of women in Jammu and Kashmir Police. There is indeed an urgent need for women officers to deal with sensitive cases of crime perpetrated upon children, girls and women, especially domestic violence, physical abuse and violation. We have very rare police stations that are exclusively manned by women, except the Rambagh station.

A woman constable, working in Baramulla, tells KC said that the job and the status of women in the police have changed now. “Earlier, we were seen with a suspicious eye. Now, we have acceptance among people. They have started connecting with us. We are being respected and called upon to handle law and order situations. This change has made the career in the police much preferred now. I have been working with the department for the last eight years and I have witnessed big changes”.

On asked how she manages her household responsibilities while doing her job, she says, “It has become a routine now to work simultaneously. I myself look after the studies of my children and keep in constant contact with their teachers. This job makes you versatile, irrespective of whether you are a man or a woman. The department has made good arrangements which make all this easier and then my family, including my father and husband, supports me”.

“It’s not been an easy ride but then, women take challenges in their stride. I have worked during the Covid-19 lockdown also and today, most of our work has become easy due to technology and accountability in the system,” she adds.

Recently, women teams of the J&K police and the CRPF have been called to Srinagar, for frisking, and keep an eye on the happenings around Lal Chowk. Donning uniforms and shouldering guns, these women forces are seen working tirelessly to ensure a safe passage for woman in the hustle-bustle around here and the interiors of the City.

The J&K government has announced reservation for women in police recruitments but the final order is yet to be publicised.

More needs to be done for the welfare of women forces. With big challenges emerging in the world, women forces need to be trained and maintained to face tough situations. Just as a household cannot function without an equal participation of man and woman, forces too cannot achieve huge feats without taking their women officers along with the men.

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