Col DS Cheema (Retd)
THE other day, reading about the induction of girls in Sainik Schools, I recalled the days when I was studying in a small-town school in the early 1960s. Our sports teacher, Jai Singh, was a former INA soldier. We were dead-scared of him as he adopted unconventional means to discipline students, and even some young teachers in the school in which my father was the Principal. I remember the burly man with an athletic body, proudly showing us the blue bullet splinter marks on his broad chest.
Most of us know that Gandhi disliked Subhas Chandra Bose’s idea of using force for achieving freedom. But what is perhaps not very well known is that but for Bose, our freedom may have been delayed.
Bose stood against Gandhi’s resistance to armed struggle. Many historians believe that the Atlee government’s withdrawal from India was not because of Gandhi’s Quit India movement of 1942, but because WW II had become unbearably costly for it. The British decision, in fact, may have been helped by the weakening of the British Indian army, because a large number of its soldiers had joined the INA. The British also felt that INA ideology was influencing soldiers, making them unreliable.
Bose had established a force of three divisions (about 30,000 soldiers) and the chances of a successful revolution looked reasonable. Undeterred by the fact that the Japanese were against the idea of female infantry and financed only the male force of the INA, he went ahead and established a Rani of Jhansi regiment. The rationale being that if women took up arms, it was likely to strengthen the resolve of male soldiers and may change the heart of soldiers fighting for the allied forces. Bose introduced ‘Jai Hind’ as INA greeting, which is followed even today in our security forces. He was the first to have flown the Azad Hind flag, which was a saffron, white and green tricolour of the INC flag, but he replaced Gandhi’s charkha with a springing tiger.
When we talk of women soldiers for our armed forces, we like to see them as Jhansi ki Rani, who became an emblem of Indian nationalism during the war against the British. If we examine the qualities required for a good soldier, women will perhaps fair a shade better. A soldier should be one who takes on the responsibility for fellow soldiers by sharing and caring for them; can lead them in face of chaos and danger; and must have moral and mental toughness; should be an expert in the use of weapon systems and equipment; must remain committed to the defence of the nation and be bound by a strong ethical framework. Women encourage participation and share power and information as they have learnt this since their childhood, and yet are ruthless when the situation demands. It comes naturally to them to enhance the self-worth of their colleagues and get the best out of them, a rare but sought-after quality in a good leader.
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