Women's rights activists and opposition party leaders on Monday demanded a top Army general be fired for his reported remarks that female officers have no place in the Indian Army.
"Ideally, we would like to have gentlemen and not lady officers," the Hindustan Times quoted Lt Gen S Pattabhiraman, Vice Chief of the Army, as saying in an interview over the weekend after a female officer committed suicide.
Pattabhiraman also said that the feedback from Army ranks was that "comfort levels with lady officers are low. We can do without them."
Pattabhiraman's view on women's role in the Army was sought after a young female officer, Lt Sushmita Chakravorty, posted in Jammu and Kashmir, committed suicide last week. Chakravorty's family has said she was under stress at work and unhappy with her job.
There are only around 1,000 women in non-combat roles in India's million-strong Army. Most of the women are in the medical corps.
Pattabhiraman's remarks drew a storm of protests from women's groups and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, demanding his removal.
"His statements are outrageous," Suhasini Ali of the All India Democratic Women's Association said.
"He should not be in a position where he can influence policy," she said.
Meanwhile, the BJP demanded that the general be removed from his job. Sushma Swaraj, a party spokeswoman, described the general's remarks as "most unfortunate."
Swaraj said the Defence Minister should remove the officer and tell him "the Indian Army can do without you."
The National Commission for Women, a government watchdog group, also condemned Pattabhiraman's reported remarks. NCW chief Girija Vyas on Monday called the comments "very irresponsible," and said it was for the government to decide on women in the Army.
As protests raged, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee tried to quell angry demands for the general's removal from office.
The government policy was to encourage more women to join the armed forces, he told journalists.
Pattabhiraman was not immediately available for comment.