Army chief General Bipin Rawat on Saturday said women are not ready for combat roles and gave reasons like they have the responsibility of raising kids and a woman officer would feel uncomfortable at the frontline and accuse jawans of peeping as she changes clothes.
In an exclusive conversation with News18, General Rawat said that while he was ready to introduce women to combat roles, the Army may not be as most jawans come from villages and they may not accept a woman officer leading them.
He also highlighted the issue of maternity leave and said the Army would not be able to give her leave if she is the commanding officer as she can’t leave her unit for six months, but said objecting to the leave could create a “ruckus”.
Here are the edited excerpts of the conversation:
Q. Women make very good soldiers, but why isn’t the Army accepting them?
A: That’s a misnomer.
Q. Military Police doesn’t count. Are there any women in combat roles, tell me?
A: We have women officers as engineers, they are doing mining and demining work. In air defence, they are manning our weapon systems. But we have not put women in frontline combat because what we are engaged in right now is a proxy war, like in Kashmir.
If there is just one officer in a company and if that officer is a lady… suppose you have to go for an operation. Everybody is ready, company commander has to lead. Now in that operation you have to deal with terrorists, there will be a firefight in which the commanding officer dies, company commander dies, and so the lady officer can also die or become a casualty.
Q. Everyone knows that risk but women are volunteering to go now.
A: They are going, yes. I will give you an example. A lady who died was in service for 7-8 years. She has a kid of 2 years. He is in Delhi or Chandigarh and parents are taking care of the baby. So what I am saying is, now do you think we are ready for this?
Q. Women can fly fighter jets but not armoured tanks?
A: See, I am not saying a women who has children doesn’t die, she can also die in a road accident. But in combat, when body bags come back, our country is not ready to see that.
Secondly, what will happen is there is just one woman and rest around her are just jawans. She is very much a commander so she has to do everything. She will have to go for operations. But even today we don’t have that acceptance. Even today our jawans come from villages, so that acceptance will take time.
Let me tell you one thing, we have started copying western ways. I did a course in US. We had 4 ladies and 10 male officers. So what happens is after every 3-4 hours you get a break of 1 hour in which you are supposed to have your lunch or you can go to the gym. Now when we go to the gym, we all change in the gym clothes in classroom all of us.
Q. This is just logistics.
A: When I was new, I would look the other way because ladies were also there but that is the culture there. They do it this way. We need to get this system. Now what will happen will be if there will be a lady officer here. Our orders are that a lady officer will get a hut in the COB, then there are orders that we have to cocoon her separately. She will say somebody is peeping, so we will have to give a sheet around her.
Q. These are all just assumptions.
A: If you think this, then even in Delhi, ladies tell me that people peep. I am talking about isolation situation when she has 100 jawans around her but it happens here also in Delhi.
Q. Are you saying army isn’t ready to accept women combat officers?
A: See I am ready, it is not that army is not ready. You are getting into something now you answer. Will she command?
Q. Why not?
A: Ok, so now I make her a commanding officer. She is commanding a battalion. Can that lady officer be away from her duties for 6 months?
A: Then what happens? Do I put a restriction on her to say that in that command tenure you will not be given maternity leave? If I say that, there will be ruckus created.