It takes another kind of grit, determination and self-sacrifice to be part of the Indian Armed Forces. Out of the rigorous training that is both physically exhausting and emotionally draining, come outbrave heroes who are prepared to die for this country.
And it is among these brave heroes that we find extraordinary women who are walking shoulder to shoulder with their male officers–fighting for this country and inspiring generations to come.
On Indian Army Day, here is a list of such women who created history in the Indian Army and awed us.
The first woman to receive the Sena Medal for Gallantry; it is given to soldiers showing exemplary courage in the call of duty.
Madhumita had joined the army in the year 2000 on a short service commission. When she requested the army for a permanent commission, the Ministry of Defence refused to accept her request. She again appealed to the Armed Forces Tribunal in March 2014. They found merit in her case and in February 2015 directed the Ministry of Defence to reinstate her. However, the Ministry of Defence appealed against the Armed Forces Tribunal’s order in the Supreme court of India, stating that Madhumita had enlisted in the army on a short service commission. In 2016 the Supreme Court of India rejected the Ministry of Defence’s plea, and she got a permanent commission in the Indian army.
In September 1992, a young, bold lady Priya Jhingan became India’s first woman to enlist in the Indian Army. She had taken the step as a Law graduate to write to the then Army Chief himself asking him to allow women to prove themselves in the Army. After a year her wish was granted and with 24 others began her journey in the Armed Forces. Known by cadet number 001, at the Officers’ Training Academy at Chennai, she received her short service commission on 6th March 1993.
She did not get the permission to join the infantry division that she asked to join but instead got to be in the Corps of Judge Advocate General. The post of Judge Advocate General in India is held by a major general who is the Army’s legal and judicial chief. Ten years later she went on release as a Major.
Divya Ajith Kumar
The first woman to get the coveted ‘Sword of Honour’, the highest award given to a cadet of the Officers Training Academy, she beat 244 fellow cadets to achieve it. Captain Divya Ajith Kumar led the Army’s first all-women contingent on Republic Day in 2015 when US President Barack Obama was present as the chief guest.
The first woman to win a gold medal in the Indian Army; wanting to be an officer in the Indian Army, this M.Sc. in Microbiology lady responded to an advertisement calling for woman officers to be inducted into the Indian Army through the Women Special Entry Scheme (WSES). Accepted and becoming part of the first batch of training officers at the Academy, she excelled in literally everything that came her way. And by God, she won the gold medal in a training field consisting of both men and women.
On the short service commission, she served with the Army for ten years. Unfortunately, despite her excellent showing, she was allowed to continue beyond this period.
Achieving the rare distinction of leading a training contingent of the Indian Army at Force 18, the ASEAN Plus Multinational field training exercise held in 2016, this only woman officer at the exercise was selected from a pool of peacekeeping trainers.
She had already achieved the unthinkable when she became the first woman officer to lead a 40-member army contingent at the international military exercise. But that’s not all. She was the only woman commander across all participating countries, including the USA, Japan, South Korea, Russia and China.
She is the first woman to be appointed as the aide-de-camp in the Indian Army. This distinction is given to officers who must prove their ability to cope with multiple challenges and hardships. And she proved herself when she became the key aide to the Army Commander, Lieutenant General Rajan Bakshi in 2013.
She was 35 and had two kids when she became the first jawaan in the Indian Army. She beat all her male co-cadets in physical fitness tests when she finished a 1.5 km run 5 seconds sooner than her fellow cadets.
We’re immensely proud of these brave officers who are an inspiration to women all around.