In a landmark verdict, the Supreme Court on Monday directed the Centre to grant permanent commission to all women officers in the Army within three months, terming the government's argument of physiological limitations and social norms for denying them command posts as "disturbing". Weighing in on the same, Bollywood actress Gul Panag opined for The Quint, stating that she wanted to join the Indian Army but was deterred by disdain towards women.
The apex court said women officers in the past have brought laurels to the country and change of mindset is required on the part of the government to put an end to gender bias in armed forces. Gul, who dreamed of being a part of the force in India at a very young age. “As an army brat, I was fascinated by the chivalrous conduct of the officers and soldiers with respect to women. Car doors were opened, chairs were pulled and even Generals would rise when a lady arrived at any event or social gathering”, she said.
“Yet, I did not fail to notice that the underlying reason for this conduct was the age-old belief that the weaker sex had to be protected by the gallant knights”, she added.
Women officers in the Indian Army were allowed to serve only for 5 years, which later extended to 14. However, permanent commission was denied even after giving their best. Gul maintained that the ‘discarded officers’ were struggling to seek second careers at 35 years of age.
“What deterred me most was that I would be denied the right to join my beloved Mechanised Infantry, 1 Mech Inf in particular via parental claim, a combat arm along with Infantry and Armoured Corps, to which my father belonged”, she said.
"I wish I could set the clock back by 21 years and be part of the challenge. My best wishes are with the women warriors", she added.
Since 1992, when women were first inducted in the Indian Army, their quest for permanent commission has had a "chequered history" of 28 years including over a decade-long litigation which ended with the Supreme Court's ruling granting them parity with their male counterparts.
With inputs from PTI