Shanti Tigga: a story with no happy ending

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Every now and then we hear stories of individuals breaking barriers and rising from the odds. The story turns out to be even more inspirational when it’s a women success story. And such is the story of Shanti Tigga– whose great endeavor and love for her nation is still remembered by many.  

Shanti Tigga was first female jawan in the Indian Army. She was born in the district of West Bengal and belonged to a socially marginalized Scheduled Tribe community. At that time child marriage was a trend and so did shanti also wasn’t prone to it. At the very young age of 17, Shanti was married and by the age of 20 she became a mother of two. Back then she was a housewife, as her husband had a good job in Indian railways there was no need of her to work. But soon the things changed, when in 2005, Shanti’s husband passed away. She was offered a job from the railways as a compensation and in order to feed the family needs, she accepted it. Initially she use to work at Chalsa station of Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district for the next five years. During this time she heard about the Territorial Army by some of her relatives. Soon this knowledge turned into her dream and in 2011 she signed up to join the 969 Railway Engineer Regiment of Territorial Army. She was 35 years old at that time. Not knowing the fact that she is the first women to ever apply for the position, Shanti managed to crack all the exams.

“I joined Railways in 2005, on compensatory ground after my husband passed away. Last year, I learnt about TA Railways and I volunteered for it. At that time, I was not aware of the fact that no woman has ever joined the Army as personnel below officer rank (PROB). But that was hardly a deterrent.” Said the lady Jawan.

Tigga became the first woman jawan in the 1.3 million strong defense forces. She even outperformed her male colleagues during the recruitment. She took five seconds less than the men to complete the 1.5 km run, and completed the 50m run in 12 seconds, which was rated as excellent by senior officials. She even impressed the officials with her will to handle guns and her remarkable fireshots. She was awarded with highest position in the marksman by then Indian President- Pratibha Patel and was also given the best trainee award. But these achievements didn’t went too long and her life came to an array of unexpected tragedies. She was wrongly accused of taking money in exchange for giving jobs. Which brought a lot of humiliation. The people who once use to appreciate her were throwing tantrums. She even faced some physical violence. On May 9th 2013, Tigga was abducted by unknown perpetrators. Following her missing the Territorial Army set a search unit for her but was not able to find her. The next morning Shanti was found tied to a post by a railway track. Immediately after this, she was taken to the hospital where she was hospitalized. Though, she didn’t complaint of any physical violence on her. The officials also provided her cabin with security. One week later when she didn’t come back from the bathroom, her son alarmed everyone by ringing the alarm. She was found hanging to the ceiling. It was presumed that it’s a case of suicide due to humiliation which was finally ruled out by the authorities. But her family was not convinced of the statement, according to them Shanti was murdered. With this incident her life came to unexpected end and her death remained a mystery.      

Her death was a strangely fabricated case threatened to wipe away her shine in the annals of Indian History- that’s all people remember about Shanti Tigga. But more than that Shanti Tigga is a role model for many Indian women. Even belonging to a tribal community, Shanti’s will and love for her nation made her the first female jawan in the Indian Army, which is a true inspiration.    

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