Once there, the young BSF personnel, both women, quickly get into position at the morcha, from where they can draw a bead on Pakistan Rangers personnel. Trained to handle medium machine guns (MMGs) and 51mm mortars, the two are merciless in their retaliation if firing from across the border injures locals or their colleagues.
Rabinder and Anubala are among more than 90 women personnel of the BSF posted along the 192 km stretch of the International Border in Jammu. “We’re the new woman power,” Rabinder, a Jammu local whose husband works in Australia, told us.
“Hum log bhi jawaab denge, aur aisa jawaab denge ki 100 saal tak yaad rakhenge ki women constables ki taqaat kya hoti hai (We, too, will retaliate, and in a manner that they will remember the might of women constables for 100 years),” she added.
Most of the BSF’s women soldiers are aged between 23 and 30 years. Some stay with their families at the battalion headquarters, while others have left their children with their husbands’ families to fight at the border.
Most say that their choice of career evokes not derision, but pride at home, even among the men of their vil lages. “The elderly men and women at my village in Pathankot bless us and say ‘Hamari bahu aur betiyo ne humara naam roshan kiya hai (Our daughters-in-law and daughters have done us proud)’,” says Anubala, who has been in the BSF since 2008.
Some of them are also deployed in the more sensitive forward areas of Akhnoor, Arnia and R S Pura, which had to bear the brunt of Pakistani shelling last year.
From standing for six to eight hours inside a watch tower with their heavy rifles, to seizing contraband from villagers, BSF’s women personnel walk shoulder-to-shoulder with their male counterparts in the combat zone. Constable Lakshmi of Samba summed it up: “We are ready for any action.”