The first female Jawan – Shanti Tigga

A mother of two kids, at 35, Shanti Tigga joined the Railways after her husband’s demise on compensatory grounds. She had dreamt very early that she would join the army and make her family proud. “I joined Railways in 2005, on compensatory ground after my husband passed away. Last year, I learnt about TA Railways and I volunteered for it. At that time, I was not aware of the fact that no woman has ever joined the Army as personnel below officer rank (PROB). But that was hardly a deterrent.” This is what this gutsy lady said when she became a Jawan in the Indian army, the first female to do so.

Female recruitment in the Forces

The earliest formal record of women soldiers in combat role can be attributed to the Russian Army. The Russian armed forces recruited women soldiers during the First World War in combat and near combat missions. Women soldiers used to disguise themselves as men with the tacit understanding of their superiors. One fine example is that  of Madame Alexandra Kudasheva, who enlisted in her late husband’ s regiment, the 6th Ural Cossacks, and was awarded the Order of St George and a Lieutenant’s commission for her bravery in Prussia.

By the Second World War most nations were using uniformed women soldiers in combat support roles especially air defence, on home soil and similar duties. After the war, many Western countries started regular recruitment of women soldiers due shortages of their male counterparts.

Israel was the first country to adopt compulsory military service for unmarried women in 1948. In 1985 the Royal Norwegian Navy became the first navy in the world to permit female personnel to serve in submarines. They even appointed a female submarine captain in 1995. The Danish Navy allowed women on submarines in 1988, the Swedish Navy in 1989, followed by the Royal Australian Navy in 1998 and Canada in 2000.

Indian Army opened its doors to women officers only in 1992. India is still a country with a large male population and with social pressures in a conservative society, the first advertisement for women officers for 50 vacancies came this late, for which there were nearly 1800 women aspirants.

A record breaking performance for Shanti Tigga

For one who was 35 and mother of two Shanti Tigga showed remarkable fitness. Having cleared all her tests to join the 969 Railway Engineer Regiment of Territorial Army in 2011, she amazed and impressed everyone with her achievements. During the physical tests, she defeated all her other male counterparts and though she completed the 50 m run in 12 seconds, it was better than that of the other males participating. On her 1.5 km run, she outran all of her male counterparts to complete it with 5 seconds to spare till they caught up. The firing instructors were so impressed with her skills in handling guns, that she earned the highest position of marksman. She was also awarded the title of best trainee. Remarkably, she did not even know that there had been no female jawan before her.

Her death in a strangely fabricated case threatened to wipe away her shine in the annals of Indian History. But as we all know, it in no way reflects on the merit of her success nor serves to diminish the extraordinary prowess and skill of her achievements.

She had achieved her long dreamt desire of joining the forces. She became the first female Jawan of the Indian Army, a triumph of the bold and indomitable; a woman who had the will to achieve despite the odds. That is why She’s Different!