Paramilitary to induct transgender officers - Remembering Shikhandi the original transgender warrior
Shikkha Singh as Shikhandi in Mahabharat (Star Plus)

The Indian government announced that it will induct members of transgender community in the country’s elite paramilitary forces ending discrimination against the marginalised section.

The transgender community of India has been looked down upon for ages. Known as ‘kinnars’ or ‘hijras’, the trans folk today have taken steps to fight for their rights.

However, it is a long way to go. India needs to make serious reforms in order to provide employment and a respectful status for them in the society. Paramilitary might just be one of the initial steps to right the wrong.

Given how most of the Indian military weapons, tanks and jets are inspired by Hindu gods, here’s a look at Shikhandi – the original transgender warrior who played an important role in the Mahabharata.

Who is Shikhandi?

According to mythology, Shikhandi’s tale begins from her past life as Amba, the eldest daughter of the King of Kashi. She had two sisters Ambika and Ambalika.

Bhishma who swore to celibacy forcefully abducted the three sisters from a Swayamvar for not inviting Hastinapur’s crown prince Vichitravirya. While the two agreed to marry, Amba refused stating she was in love with Salwa.

Bhishma sent Amba back, but she was rejected by Salwa because he lost to Bhishma. She went to Bhishma again asking him to marry her, but due to the vow of celibacy he refused. Angry at the humiliation, Amba resorted to penance.

She was rewarded a garland of blue lotuses from Lord Kartikeya and was foretold that whoever wore it would be the cause of Bhishma's death. She tried to persuade many but none agreed fearing the latter. Enraged, she hung the garland on the gates of King Draupada and died in agony.


Amba was reincarnated as King Draupada’s daughter and Draupadi’s sister Shikhandini. When Shikhandini was still living as a young woman she discovered the garland of ever-blooming blue lotuses hung on the palace gate. Shikhandini put it around her neck and became Shikhandi – half man and half woman. During this transformation she gained elements of a man to help her become Bhishma’s slayer.

Battle of Kurukshetra

On the tenth day of the war between the Kauravas and Pandavas, Bhishma was the biggest hurdle for the latter to. Lord Krishna advised Arjuna to use Shikhandi as a shield. Bhishma knew it was Amba and lowered his weapons (to not strike a woman). Seeing this as an opportunity, Arjuna finally killed Bhishma.

Transgender Community in Paramilitary

The Ministry of Home Affairs has sought suggestions and comments from the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) on the matter. The ministry is working on the proposal to commission the "third gender" as officers in the paramilitary forces.

It has sought opinion of all CAPFs on the modalities on implementation of commissioning third gender officers as Assistant Commandants.

The ministry in a letter to CAPF on July 1, under the subject "Central Armed Police Forces (Assistant Commandants) Examination 2020 -Comments on draft rules regarding" sought suggestions from the forces over the issue.

It stated: "...the comments for incorporating the issues on transgender as Third gender along with Male/Female in the rules of CAPF (AC) Examination, 202 is yet to be received from CRPF, ITBP, SSB and CISF."

The ministry says that the forces are "once again requested to examine" the issue and furnish comments on July 2, 2020 positively for taking a final view on the matter.

Recently, the Indian government has taken several steps for upliftment of transgender community. On March 17, the Minister of State for Social justice and Empowerment Rattan Lal Kataria in Lok Sabha stated that in order to provide for protection of rights of transgender persons and their welfare, recently, The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019, has been enacted with the effect from January 10, 2020.

"As per clause 14 of the Act, the appropriate Government shall formulate welfare schemes and programmes to facilitate and support livelihood for transgender persons including their vocational training and self-employment," the minister stated.

The lawmaker also stated that during 2019-20, an amount of Rs 5 crore has been allocated for the welfare of transgender persons.

The minister has also stated that the transgender persons are entitled for all kinds of reservations such as Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), Other Backward Classes (OBC), Economically Weaker Section (EWS) in cases of admission in educational institutions and for government jobs in their respective category.

"As per clause 9 of the Act, no establishment shall discriminate against any transgender person in any matter relating to employment including, but not limited to, recruitment, promotion and other related issues," the minister had pointed.

With inputs from IANS

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