Woman officer to be part of the Army’s ‘Daredevils’ motorcycle team on Republic Day


NEW DELHI: Among many firsts, a woman officer will be part of the Army’s ‘Daredevils’ motorcycle team, which performs gravity defying stunts, during this year’s Republic day parade, while another woman officer will be leading an Army marching contingent consisting of only male personnel.

Among the weapon systems, the Army will showcase its latest artillery inductions- the M777 Howitzers and the K9 Vajra self propelled gun in the parade. This will also be the first time that these guns will be displayed at both the parades, following their induction in the Army last November. The importance of these guns is that they are the first major artillery procurement since the Bofors were bought in the 1980s and will be deployed along India’s frontiers with China and Pakistan.

Captain Shikha Surabhi is the first woman officer to have joined the Army’s ‘Daredevils Motorcycle Display Team’. The Daredevils is part of the army’s Corps of Signals- a combat support arm that holds 24 world records, including of the Guinness World Record. Daredevil team stunts include 304-men ride on 13 motorcycles and 61 men on a single bike. Until Shikha’s induction it was a males only team.

Last year, the Border Security Force (BSF) had created a women’s motorcycle stunt team called ‘Seema Bhavani’, to performe at the Republic Day Parade. It is separate to the BSF’s men’s only motorcycle team called ‘Janbaz’. The Janbaz perform at the parade every alternate year. This year, Army’s Daredevils are participating.

Surabhi said her selection into the team was not a piece of cake. “They took difficult tests. They made ditches, sand tracks that we had to cross and pits to jump from. They wanted to see how confident we were doing it,” she said.

She added that it has been a long journey for her from learning how to kickstart a Royal Enfield Bullet 350cc motorcycle to riding it without her hands. “When I started working with the team it was very difficult for me, because riding a bike in a normal manner is different from being part of an adventure activity team…Here you are not holding your bike with your hands, but with your legs…When you leave your hand, you can’t believe that you are actually doing it. But right now I am able to stand on the bike and ride it…I think I can ride for four km by just standing on the Bullet,” she said.

Now, she is the second in command of the Daredevils team. “I will be at the end with the closing salute. I will be standing on my bike and leading the pyramid behind me, which consists of nine bikes and 33 men on it…It took me two months for this stunt…I hope that I will be part of the team in the future and learn more stunts,” she said.

She sees her work as a landmark for other women and more opportunities. “The nation is accepting women in everything. The women officers of the IAF are flying fighter planes…Maybe we will have permanent commission and enter combat role. Physically we are a little different, but if you give a particular task everyone can perform it,” she added.

Currently, women officers in the Army can only have permanent commission in certain branches such as Judge and Advocate General. They are also not inducted into the combat roles such as the infantry and artillery.

Other woman officer, Lieutenant Bhavana Kasturi, an officer with two years of service and belonging to the Army Service Corps (ASC), also agrees that the situation has improved for women in the forces. Posted in Jammu and Kashmir, she was part of a gruelling selection process from among 25 male and females officers for the task to lead the ASC marching contingent. Now, she becomes the first woman to lead the contingent at the Republic Day parade. What is important to note is that she will be the first Army woman officer to lead a marching contingent comprising of only male personnel. This is separate from the all women marching contingent in the Republic Day parade in 2015, which was led by a woman officer, Captain Divya Ajith. Another difference is that in 2015 the women contingent comprised of only officers, as women are only commissioned as officers into the army.

The role is important as the ASC contingent will be participating in the two parades after 23 years. “It is a matter of great pride and honour for me. It is for every soldier who will march on Rajpath and during Army Day…We have a competition for the ‘best marching contingent’ for both events and I am sure we will give a tough fight,” she said.


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