The Indian Army can always do with more brave men. But even as the issue of more brave women is yet to be resolved, another worthy lot has been identified as potential jawans — or jawanis. The idea is to set up a special army unit comprising hijras. The idea is an excellent one, a horde of eunuchs clapping the enemy to death and threatening to lift their petticoats if the adversary doesn’t give ground.
One must commend Arunachal Pradesh Home Minister Tako Dabi for the plan. “Like Shikhandi [the gender-changing eunuch whose help came in handy when killing Bhishma at Kurukshetra], the almost invincible character in the Mahabharata, they can work as a shield, standing guard against the attack of preying Chinese on the eastern and Pakistanis on the northern frontier,” said Mr Dabi. What was perhaps less helpful was the minister’s reasons for utilising eunuchs in battle. “Most eunuchs don’t have families and can be selfless... A military career will give them a respectable livelihood,” he added. That sounds perilously like dipping into the country’s estimated 27 lakh eunuch population as cannon fodder and channelising their ‘aggression’ to a wholesome social activity like fighting wars.
True, it’s not as if there will be a conscription drive which will force eunuchs to face the enemy. But some supporters have spoken about the ‘great tradition’ of eunuchs kitting out for battle during Mughal times. It’d be wise to keep in mind that warriors who happened to be eunuchs played their parts — rather than eunuchs with automatic mettle. And the Union home minister, to whose desk
Mr Dabi has sent his plan stating that eunuchs “can be employed with minimum supportive amount in the form of salary”, must remember that hijras have a way of getting more money for their services than planned.