Society

Indian Women In The Military: Time To Give Them Real Power

The government had said that 'rural Indian men' would not take orders from a woman commander. It's just a cover for the sexism of the ruling class.

Cpt. Divya Ajith Kumar and her regiment
Cpt. Divya Ajith Kumar and her regiment
N.C. Asthana

NEW DELHI — Captain Tania Shergill, a woman army officer, led the all-male army contingent at the Republic Day Parade this year. A euphoric media hailed it as Nari Shakti and ‘women power on full display". The balloon burst rather quickly a few days later in the Supreme Court, when the government opposed giving commanding officer posts to women officers in the army.

Fortunately the Supreme Court subsequently saw beyond that argument later, criticizing the the mindset of the top military brass. The stark contradiction between what the government said in court and how it gave Shergill an important ceremonial role can only mean that the army wants women officers essentially as decorative showpieces. It is their attempt to hoodwink the international community that, in keeping with the times of gender equality, Indian armed forces also recruit women.

None of this is much different from the stereotyped depiction of women in many of our films and TV serials where the women are shown bedecked in jewelry; that is, well provided for, but they do not have any real say in family matters except indulging in petty conspiracies.

To top this regressive sexism and hypocrisy they have given a ridiculously flawed argument that the "composition of rank and file being male predominantly drawn from the rural background with prevailing societal norms, troops are not yet mentally schooled to accept women officers in command of units'. General Bipin Rawat, as the chief of army staff, had said the same thing in December 2018. This argument typecasts and insults rural Indian males by presuming that they all are necessarily sexist, chauvinistic and patriarchal. Says whom? And on what basis? Since there is no evidence to support such a notion, it follows that the army is actually trying to conceal its own inherent sexism under the cover of the mythical ‘rural Indian males."

If rural Indian men can work under women in a thousand other organizations, there is no reason to believe that they cannot do so in the army. The mere fact of joining the army gives them neither an extra shot of testosterone nor any refresher course in misogyny. Many people try for the army and, failing that, take up jobs where they might have to work under women.

Female soldiers in Indian Army ADGPI - Indian Army via Facebook

In any case, after retirement, they have no option but to take up such jobs. Many bank managers, for example, are women and the security guards are ex-servicemen. Their so-called rural societal norms have never come in the way of working as security guards.

In fact, Lt. Gen. D. S. Hooda holds that women officers are already in command positions at the lower levels, commanding platoons and companies, and there is no factual evidence to support the claim that male soldiers are not accepting orders from women because of their mental schooling. What then is the problem with women commanding bigger units? Obviously, the real problem is the male chauvinism of the senior officers, which they are trying to pass on to the ‘rural Indian male."

Sheer brawn has ceased to be of any critical value.

The oft-quoted argument of lower physical standards of women is no longer valid in modern warfare and combat. Ever since humans invented firearms and stopped fighting with swords and spears, sheer brawn has ceased to be of any critical value. In fact, most modern military weapons are so light and recoil-free that even kids can fire them. Child soldiers by the tens of thousands have been a constant feature in Afghanistan, for example, since the Soviet-Afghan War. Only the Special Forces might require great physical strength for a few operations.

In the U.S., in 2013, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta removed the military's ban on women serving in combat roles. In December 2015, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter made it clear that starting in 2016 all combat jobs would open to women. By March 2016, he approved final plans from military service branches including even the US Special Operations Command.

In the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron opened frontline ground fighting jobs to women in 2016 including elite Special Forces units like the SAS and Royal Marines. In 2017, Theresa May personally congratulated the first woman officer commissioned into the Royal Tank Regiment. In fact, as many as 14 NATO countries including France, Germany, Belgium, Greece, Netherlands, Denmark, Czech Republic, and Canada have three-star women officers currently serving in their armed forces.

There is no need to appeal to the army for a change of mindset. Sheer logic, as well as precedent from other countries, demands that if they have to have women in the army, they cannot be allowed to retain them as mere showpieces for the Republic Day Parade.

Dr. N.C. Asthana, a retired IPS officer, has been DGP Kerala and a long-time ADG CRPF and BSF.

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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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