Armed women guards in combat uniform manned the border with Pakistan on Friday, a first.
The Border Security Force (BSF) has been a men’s domain for over 62 years.
Women from nearby villages gathered to cheer the ladies in uniform. At crossing 104, many of them waited to be frisked by women guards for what would be their first visit to their fields across the barbed fencing since 1988-89.
Gian Kaur, 62, of Roranwala village, was in tears as she glimpsed at her fields after 20 years while she waited to be frisked.
Nine more women of the same village crossed the fencing in quick succession, some with meals for the men at work.
Free movement at the front was curtailed in 1988-89 by raising a barbed fence to keep out Pakistani infiltrators. Henceforth, it became a self-imposed taboo for women to not cross the fencing — raised along 550 km of the Punjab border — where BSF men would have frisked them.
The women’s contingent was excited about their sensitive and challenging assignment.
“It is a dream come true for me. I had been looking forward to a posting on the front since my selection in the BSF,” said Kiranbir Kaur.
BSF Deputy Inspector General Mohammad Aquil said that beginning with a few points, women would be stationed at all the fencing gates in Punjab in the next two months. They were trained to handle any situation arising at the border, he said. They would be put on day duty to begin with.
Kuldeep Singh, a farmer from Roranwala, said now that their women could lend a hand in their farms across the fencing, labour costs would go down.