First Female Troopers in Punjab Police’s Special Security Group

Women commandos at passing out parade
Women commandos at passing out parade – PTI photo

She is having the time of her life. Up at the crack of dawn for a punishing six-kilometre run, countless push-ups, chin-ups and a complex obstacle course. The rest of the day, under the blistering summer sun, is spent handling state-of-the-art weaponry, counter-terrorism manoeuvres and imbibing unarmed combat skills.

Kamaljit Kaur, 21, is among 20 recruits selected as the first female troopers in the Punjab Police’s elite Special Security Group (SSG). They are being prepped for deployment in Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal’s innermost security ring, besides anti-terrorism operations.

“This is what I have always dreamt of doing,” says the farmer’s daughter from Mudki near Ferozepur, armed with an assault rifle and smartly turned out in combat fatigues. Her eyes light up at the prospect of being part of an armed and uniformed force, not a particularly desirable vocation among young Punjabi women until recently. But things are changing across the hinterland. And this is evident from the enthusiasm of the ‘lady cadets’ as they happily take on their final month at Bahadurgarh, a historic 500-year-old fort that houses the state police Commando Training Centre outside Patiala.

Punjab Women Commandos Force training in Patiala Punjab Women Commandos Force training in Patiala – PTI photo

“The girls are highly motivated, much more than the average male trainees,” admits Kulwant Singh, 49, a battle-hardened explosives expert who instructs the cadets on tackling improvised explosive devices (IED) and reading maps. “Once fully trained these commandos would be a definite asset to any security setup.”

Navneet Kaur Sandhu, 21, also a farmer’s daughter and an arts graduate from Bathinda, could probably shame the fastest male cadet at Bahadurgarh in a sprint. Just a week into the commando course and she was using automatic weapons like a veteran.

“The SIG is my favourite,” she declares, deftly handling the newest polymer frame automatic pistol from Sig Sauer, US. Seated beside her, 22-year-old Balwinder Kaur says she gave up the chance to study architecture or marry and settle abroad, opting instead to be a police commando. “This gives me an unbelievable sense of accomplishment and empowerment,” she says.

Women commandos are being trained to use a wide array of weapons acquired for the SSG set up in 2010 by the then director general of police (DGP) Paramdip Singh Gill. These include the Swiss-made SG-553 assault rifle and MP-9 tactical machine pistol, the SIG SP-2022 pistol and the trusted and hardy AK-47 from Kalashnikov.

Punjab Women Commandos Force training in Patiala height=
Punjab Women Commandos Force training in Patiala – PTI photo

SSG’s arsenal rivals that of any other non-military special protection force in the country, including the National Security Guard, Special Protection Group and National Investigation Agency. The Punjab force will, however, have the edge. Once deployed, its women commandos will be the first to be included in Close Protection Teams (CPT) for VVIP security anywhere in the country.

The role of Punjabi women as commandos on the battlefield goes a long way back in history.

Sada Kaur, the mother-in-law of the young Ranjit Singh, shadowed her son-in-law in all his major engagements against the Mughals especially after the Afghans had routed the Marathas at Panipat and became so powerful, that the Moghul throne survived but only under their duress. She is remembered as one of the greatest generals of her time even in the Afghan records.

Rani Sahib Kaur, sister of the infant ruler Sahib Singh of Patiala, successfully defended her brother’s kingdom against the attacks of the Marathas, Afghans and European adventurers like George Thompson and chased them away from the battlefield.

Mai Bhago took the 40 Sikh warriors who had deserted Guru Gobind Singh under her command to ensure their return to the Guru and lead them into the battlefield.

Sukhbir Badal is delighted with incumbent DGP S.S. Saini’s decision to induct women into the SSG. “Women tend to be more focused and less susceptible to corruption. Don’t any of you try to take a panga (mess) with them,” he laughingly told journalists at a May 29 news conference.

Sound advice, agrees Inspector General (Security) Sanjiv Kalra: “In addition to firearms, our women commandos equal their male counterparts in unarmed combat.” Once posted with the Punjab Police’s 4th Commando Battalion, which is responsible for VVIP security, they will also be trained in Krav Maga, a highly effective and often brutal Israeli martial art.

As with any untried venture there are some within the state police who are questioning the wisdom of inducting women for jobs that would involve unpredictable hours and situations.

“The Punjab Police is an indisciplined force and we will have to post guards to protect the women who are all essentially in their early 20s,” says a senior officer. The success of Punjab’s women commandos can only be measured once they have been deployed on active duty. But in a state with an abysmal male-female sex ratio and a continuing social tradition of female
foeticide, employing young women to protect the top leadership can only be an encouraging sign.

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