First among equals | No one will question BSF’s decision to induct women: Tanu Shree Pareek
Come April 16, and the BSF’s first woman combat officer, Tanu Shree Pareek, 25, will take over the command of a unit at the Hussainiwala border in Punjab. Pareek, who was the only woman trainee among 51 men at the Border Security Force academy in Tekanpur, passed out last month with three coveted medals — the second best all-rounder, the best public speaker, and director’s baton for the best in drill. She was also selected to lead the passing out parade that saw home minister Rajnath Singh taking the salute.punjab Updated: Apr 08, 2017 17:28 IST
Come April 16, and the BSF’s first woman combat officer, Tanu Shree Pareek, 25, will take over the command of a unit at the Hussainiwala border in Punjab. Pareek, who was the only woman trainee among 51 men at the Border Security Force academy in Tekanpur, passed out last month with three coveted medals — the second best all-rounder, the best public speaker, and director’s baton for the best in drill. She was also selected to lead the passing out parade that saw home minister Rajnath Singh taking the salute.
Born and raised in a traditional joint family of 28 members with four uncles and nine cousins in the dusty town of Rajasthan’s Bikaner, Pareek is quite a trailblazer. “I often hear people describing themselves as a second or third generation soldier; well, I am the first in seven generations to join a combat arm,” laughs Pareek, whose father is a veterinarian.
Pareek, who describes herself as versatile and tenacious, is an electronics engineer by training with a master’s in rural development and a post-graduate diploma in women and gender studies. The 25-year-old was drawn to the uniform when she joined the NCC in college, and did particularly well in shooting and horse-riding. “The BSF sector headquarters is just a few kilometres away from my home. In that sense, I always felt close to them.”
So when she cleared the Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) exam, and was told that the BSF had opened its doors to women officers, she opted for it over the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). “It just seemed so right.”
Pareek says her family has always stood by her. “I was pampered at home by everyone because I was good at studies. They never questioned my decisions. When I took the CAPF exams, my grandfather told me ‘I want to see you in uniform’,” she says.
TRAINED TO BE TOUGH
Acing the exams was one thing but training at the BSF academy was an altogether different ball game. For one, Pareek was the only woman in the entire academy, be it in the training or administrative wing.
“Initially, I found it a bit strange, but now I think it was the best thing that could have happened to me,” says Pareek, who made sure she didn’t ask for any special treatment. “I forgot that I was a woman. I used to think, if they can do it, so can I,” she says. No wonder by the end of the training, she earned the title of “Iron Lady”.
For Pareek, who’s always enjoyed sports, the training was a year-long adventure. “The best part was that it was so unpredictable and exciting.” It also taught the trainee officers to work as a tight team. “If one person made a mistake, everyone had to pay for it,” says Pareek, whose favourite memory is of three days and three nights spent without a wink.
She fondly recalls the assault course that required the trainees to cross 16 obstacles on a 450-metre runway with a 5-kg INSAS rifle in hand and a 7-kilo backpack. “It involved a Burma bridge, spider mat crawl, and trench crossing among others with bullets flying all around and smoke in the air,” says Pareek, who also turned a diarist during the course. “I used to spend at least five to 10 minutes writing about my day,” she says, calling it an exercise in self-correction.
Now back home after a quick trip to McLeodganj, this officer is looking forward to her first assignment on the rugged borders of Punjab. “I am so glad they didn’t give me a headquarter posting,” says Pareek, who is raring to prove her mettle.