ITBP’s first women raring to guard borders, fight insurgents

By Sahil Makkar, IANS,

Panchkula (Haryana) : They are strong, courageous and determined to prove that men aren’t the only ones who can guard the border, fight insurgents in jungles, or take up duties at high altitudes.

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They are the first batch of 209 women constables of the central paramilitary Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) who Friday completed their 44-week-long rigorous training at a camp near here.

“We will break the notion that only men can take up border guard duties or fight militants. We are trained and want to prove our mettle in front of everyone,” said 20-year-old Poonam Johari.

“We are not scared of anyone. We will perform whatever duty is given to us,” Johari, who is also an international boxer, told IANS.

The women have been trained in the firing of mortars, light machine guns, Insas rifles, carbines and grenade launchers. They have also been trained in counter-insurgency operations, map reading, and field craft, among others.

ITBP Director General Vikram Srivastava said these women would also be given training in skiing and high altitude mountaineering.

“From among these girls, we will constitute quick reaction teams and bomb disposal squads. We do not discriminate between men and women. The training is the same for every one,” he said.

“A fresh batch of 145 women will also pass out in May this year,” he said.

The women will be mainly deployed along the Nathu La pass for trade facilitation between India and China and also for pilgrimage to the Kailash Mansarovar. They will be performing border guard duties too.

Constable Poonam Yadav, 22, said: “I am proud to be in the ITBP. I am the only one from our village who has come to the police services. Now I will move in my village with my head held high.”

“I always wanted to wear a police uniform and my parents always supported my dreams,” she said.

Yadav, who comes from a small village in Jhunjhunu district of Rajasthan, has inspired her younger sister who is also undergoing training at the ITBP centre.

Her mother Raj Bala, who was present at the passing out ceremony, said: “We will provide all the support to her, wherever she is posted. She has made the entire family proud.”

Shagun Bisht, who hails from Uttarakhand, said: “We will now walk shoulder to shoulder with men. Women have proved themselves everywhere, so why not the paramilitary forces?”

“It was my childhood dream to wear a uniform. Now I aim to climb Mount Everest along with the ITBP men,” she said.

Some recruits see this as a chance to enter into a men’s bastion, others take it as an opportunity for economic upliftment.

“It is a government job. It will help in improving my family’s economic conditions,” said Gudiya Kumari.