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Bhawana Kanth & 10 Other Women Who Made History During Republic Day Parades

Posted: January 20, 2021
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While Bhawana Kanth is the first-ever woman fighter pilot to fly in this year’s Republic Day Parade, here are 10 women who made history.

Flight Lieutenant Bhawana Kanth is set to become the first woman fighter pilot to take part in this year’s Republic Day Parade. While the nation has seen 71 Republic Day celebrations, women still have to struggle to break barriers to become the ‘first’ in their chosen fields. Nevertheless, Bhawana Kanth’s achievement is a huge milestone in this struggle for equality. 

She has been an inspiration to young girls across the country after she became one of the first three women selected for the Indian Air Force’s fighter stream in 2016. In 2019, she became the first woman to qualify for combat missions on a fighter jet. And 2021 sees her creating history yet again as the first woman to fly a fighter jet in the Republic Day Parade. 

While Bhawana Kanth is the first woman fighter pilot, for the past few years, women have made history by joining their male counterparts on the Rajpath. Here are some of the women who made history in the past decade. 

Bhawana Kanth had a lot of stellar predecessors making history

In 2020, Captain Tania Shergil became the first woman to be a parade adjutant who led an all-men contingent during the 71st Republic Day. She is an officer with the Army Corps of Signals. Hailing from a family of army officers, she was very proud when she was selected as the Parade Adjutant. She was posted at 1-Signal Training Centre at Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh.

That same year, Major Khusboo Kanwar also made history by leading an all-women contingent of the Assam Rifles. Assam Rifles is the oldest paramilitary force in the country and Major Kanwar took great pride in leading the contingent. She is also a strong advocate of inducting women in combat positions as the Assam Rifles did. Originally from Rajasthan, she joined the Indian Army in 2012.

When history was made in 2019

On the Republic Day Parade of 2019, Lieutenant Bhavana Kasturi led an all-male contingent of 144-personnel, becoming the first woman to do so. She led an Army Services Corps contingent on Army Day in a display of ‘Nari Shakti’.

The 70th Republic day parade also witnessed the stunts of Captain Shikha Surabhi as a part of the Daredevils. She became the first woman to join the team and perform gravity-defying stunts on her motorcycle. The 28-year-old officer who hails from Jharkhand practised for three months to perfect her stunts for her history-making performance. 

From riding bikes to receiving the Sword Of Honour, they have done it all!

2018 saw the BSF’s first-ever all-women motorcycle stunts team of 113 named ‘Seema Bhawani.’ It was led by Sub-inspector Stanzin Noryang who made history with her participation. The women were seen riding Royal Enfield bullet motorcycles. They performed stunts like Salute to President, Mobile PT, Fish Riding, Side Riding, and so on, amid loud applause.

The 66th Republic Day celebrations saw all-women contingents from the three wings of the Armed Forces marching down the Rajpath. Each contingent had 148 members.

Captain Divya Ajith led the Army contingent, Lt Cdr Sandhya Chauhan led the Navy and Squadron Leader Sneha Shekhawat led the Air Force. Lieutenant Commander Sandhya Chauhan was selected from a shortlist of twelve individuals and was informed only a couple of days before the event. Captain Divya Ajith Kumar was also the first lady cadet to receive the prestigious Sword of Honour in 2010.

1992 to 2021, women in the Forces have definitely scaled new heights! 

2015 also saw the first woman Wing Commander Puja Thakur lead the Guard of Honour welcomes for the Chief Guest. A native of Rajasthan, she led the inter-services Guard of Honour for the then US President Barack Obama. After 13 years of service, she was immensely proud to have represented the Air Force.

Sneha Shekhawat became the first woman pilot in 2012 to lead the Air Force contingent. She followed up this milestone for women’s participation by being part of the historic parade in 2015. The Squadron Leader from Rajasthan is the only female officer of the Armed Forces to have led a marching contingent twice.

Women in the Armed Forces are fighting hard to not only keep the nation safe but also to pave the way for more women to join the forces. Kiran Bedi’s participation in 1975 was just the beginning of colourful history. She was the first woman to lead a contingent of Delhi Police in the Republic Day Parade as an Assistant Superintendent of Police. The Army, Navy and Air Force began inducting women only in 1992 and it is incredible how far we’ve already come.

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An undergraduate student of Political Science at Presidency University, Kolkata. Describes herself as an intersectional

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