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Justice, Women & the Indian Army

July 31, 2009

First female cadets in the BSF in Hoshairpur, Punjab (AFP)

First female cadets in the BSF in Hoshairpur, Punjab (AFP)

As they thumped their feet into the ground for the final parade as trainees, they all knew that they are just a step away from their destination—of being the first batch of women to be guarding India’s international borders (Deccan Herald)

On July 25th, the Kharkan camp of the Border Security Force (BSF) molded its name in history by inducting its first batch of 178 female members, according to the Times of India.

The BSF women recruits will soon be serving on the India-Pakistan border in Punjab, alongside several other male soldiers, all contributing to their country’s Defense and National Security.

The women have been trained for 36 weeks and will be taught for a further two weeks on complex warfare before they are deployed to India’s wall of death. These 18-22 year-old young women come from several different regions within India, from Punjab and West Bengal to Assam.

“The training here was a physical and mental test for all of us. Now we are ready to serve our country. The BSF has given us a chance to come out of our villages and do something,” (Rajwant Kaur, Gurdaspur)

“It is a matter of pride that the BSF has thrown open its door for women.” (General M L Kumawat , BSF Director)

Contrasting this hall of fame like story is twenty-year-old Sabra Ahmadzai’s struggle for justice in India.

Sabra Ahmadzai (Rama Lakshmi/ The Washington Post)
Sabra Ahmadzai (Rama Lakshmi/ The Washington Post)

Per Washington Post, Sabra Ahmadzai, an Afghan woman is fighting for her rights after being betrayed by an Indian army doctor who married her and shortly after deserted her by fleeing off to India. Overburdened by humiliation, Ahmadzai obtained a bank loan after graduating from high school and left for India to find her husband, only to find out that he’s already married with children.

With the help of various human rights groups in India, Ahmadzai managed to file a police complaint against her husband, Maj. Chandrashekhar Pant, with the hopes of getting him detained on bigamy charges.

” I want him behind the bars of a jail so that no man ever attempts this again with any other woman in the world…My family has been ostracized in Kabul because of this shame..women said that I was a stigma on earth and should take poison and die. The local boys harassed me and shouted that they are ready to marry me for 20 days, too. I decided to come to India to confront him.” (Sabra Ahmadzai)

So far the inquiry is still in progress; Sabra Ahmadzai still remains in transit.

Ahmadzai had requested from Pant to be divorced in Afghanistan, but he has repeatedly refused offering money instead,

“I told him to come to Kabul and divorce me in front of everybody…It is better to be divorced than abandoned in my society.”(Sabra Ahmadzai)

Power imbalance is surely at play here; in Afghanistan, Ahmadzai suffered as a woman and in India she is yet again suffering as a foreigner, a woman and an ordinary civilian.

Ahmadzai’s fight against cultural norms and social class distinctions has already turned many heads, but will Pant eventually pay off the debt he owes to her, will Pant even face a fair trial?

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