Hailing from the Jalpaiguri district in West Bengal, Shanti Tigga was India’s first female jawan to join the Indian army. She was a personification of courage, strength, and bravery. Tigga outshined her male counterparts and participated in the territorial army.
Sadly, at the age of 35, she lost her husband. Shanti Tigga soon joined a Recruitment Training Camp and topped the charts for her skills in firing. Her courage gave her the opportunity to be honoured by former President Pratibha Patil, for her extraordinary endeavours.
Under suspicious circumstances, India faced the loss of the courageous Shanti Tigga on May 13, 2013.
When Tigga joined the army, she was a 35-year-old mother to two kids. She was fit and approved by a top training institute in drills and firing exercises.
India’s first female jawan in the 125-year-old Indian army was stopped by no barriers, be it the age, gender, or her responsibilities of motherhood.
Shanti Tigga belonged to a socially marginalised Scheduled Tribe of a district in West Bengal where child marriage was a widespread practice. At the age of 17, she was married and had two children too soon. She became a housewife, but in 2005 things took a turn after Shanti’s husband passed away.
Expedition to Defence Forces
After being offered a job by the Railways as reimbursement, Shanti started working as a points-man at the Chalsa station in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district. In 2013, she volunteered for the Territorial Army (TA).
“I joined Railways in 2005, on the compensatory ground after my husband passed away,” she said to The Hindu. Shanti learned and volunteered for TA Railways. Olive green uniform and fire guns and her love for the brave profession led her dreams to join the army.
“At that time, I was not aware that no woman has ever joined the Army as personnel below officer rank. But that was hardly a deterrent,” she recalls.
Shanti Tigga became the first woman to join the 1.3 million powerful defence forces. She surpassed every male peer while her recruitment training.
In 2011, she cleared her tests to join the 969 Railway Engineer Regiment of Territorial. During their physical tests, she defeated all her male counterparts.
Reports say that she outran all of her male counterparts in her iconic 1.5 km run, completing it with 5 seconds to spare till they caught up. The brave Tigga completed this 50m run in only 12 seconds during her tests.
Shanti Tigga died under mysterious circumstances. Her family believes that it was a murder. Kidnapped by unknown convicts on the evening of May 9, 2013, she was blindfolded and tied to a post near the railway tracks.
After a few days of that incident, Tigga was hospitalised where she was kept under observation, until that one unfortunate morning, where she was found hanging from the ceiling.
Some reports claim of her being wrongly accused of taking money from people and giving them employment and that based on this, she was assumed to have committed suicide.
Her lesser-known story deserves to be told as Tigga not only broke barriers, but also stood up for herself and excelled in a field few women have managed to break through.
“Women are allowed to join the armed forces only as officers in the non-combat units. But Tigga has earned the unique distinction of being the first lady jawan in the 1.3 million strong defence forces,” a senior Army officer said.