Women aren't weak, says Indian Navy contingent leader

For Lieutenant Commander Priya Jayakumar, leading the Indian Navy contingent at the 66th Republic Day parade Monday was about proving that women are not the weaker sex.

"In India, the perception is that women are the weaker sex. But when we marched on Rajpath, we broke the convention," Lt. Cdr. Jayakumar told IANS.

"In our country, every morning you see newspaper reports about female foeticide, rape, molestation, even two to three old girls are raped... But at the same time, making Nari Shakti (woman power) the theme for Republic Day shows the country is progressing and things are changing," said the officer.

Lt. Cdr. Jayakumar said the officers were eager to put their best display at the parade and impress the chief guest, US President Barack Obama.

"Mr. Obama is the president of US, the most developed country in the world. We wanted to impress him with the march, and we gave our 100 percent," she said.

Lt. Cdr. Jayakumar said the rainy weather did not dampen their spirit.

"On the Republic Day, we assembled at 3.30 a.m. There was a dress inspection and after that we went to the Rajpath at 5.30 a.m. The rain did upset us, but the enthusiasm was very high and weather was no hurdle," said the officer.

"We were just thrilled and excited, and knew we had to give our best," the beaming officer said.

Lt. Cdr. Jayakumar said things are changing fast for women and more opportunities are coming their way.

"There are more and more opportunities for women, and I am sure the display of women power will send out a strong message and more people will educate their daughters and understand daughters are no less than sons," said the officer, pride gleaming in her eyes.

This year's Republic Day parade saw all women contingents from the armed forces marching on Rajpath for the first time.

The army contingent was led by Captain Divya Ajith while Squadron Leader Sneha Shekhawat led the air force contingent.

A day before, in another first, a woman air force officer, Wing Commander Puja Thakur, led the ceremonial guard of honour for Obama at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Republic Day also saw Captain Haobam Bella Devi, an officer of the Army Ordnance Corps, unfurling the national flag at Rajpath.

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