For the first time in over four decades, women personnel of the Border Security Force (BSF) have been made part of the routine Beating Retreat Ceremony at Wagah on the Indo-Pak border here.
BSF, which guards the country's border with Pakistan and Bangladesh, appointed women constables last year to perform duty on the International Border.
But their role was confined to routine patrolling and managing crowds.
"Women constables were inducted into the frontier force for the first time in the history but only on an experimental basis," BSF DIG Mohammad Aquil said.
On their new role at the Beating Retreat Ceremony which draws large crowds during sunset everyday, Aquil said, "We would watch for a few days the performance of women. It is a very hard job and if they feel comfortable and don't receive any injury, only then they would be allowed to continue," he said.
Women are assigned to lead the ceremony by marching towards the iron international gate, where the flag posts of India and Pakistan are located.
Aggression Toned Down
The decision to depute women constables comes in the wake of the border forces on the two sides -- Pakistani Rangers and Indian BSF -- agreeing to tone down their aggressive postures at the ceremony.
Earlier Pakistan Rangers was adamant to continue the parade in the traditional aggressive style which has long been the star-attraction of the 45-minute long beating the retreat ceremony preceding the lowering of both flags and the slamming of the border gates at sunset everyday since 1959.
In the past, the guards on two sides would speed march with their dramatically extended arm, the clenched fist and the thumb
skywards, stamp rigorously on the ground, high-kick, and shout their way through a carefully choreographed routine that was compared to the peacock strut.
The BSF took the lead in toning down the aggression some months ago. The Pakistan Rangers desisted but have now decided to respond likewise, according to their spokesperson who, however, insists that Pakistan will continue with foot-pressing and leg-stretching drill "because it is the pride of a soldier and a symbol of fitness".
"We will only change the 'fist gesture'. No thumb would be shown and
aggressive looks will be replaced with a proper handshake and a smile," the Pakistan Rangers spokesperson said.
The ceremony during which Indian and Pakistani flags are lowered just before sunset has been an attraction for years. Though it is a symbolic un-hoisting of flags, the drill had earned the tag of being one of the most aggressive of its kind.