Priya Semwal is one of the 62 women who were commissioned into the Indian Army as short service officers at the ceremonial passing out parade at the Officers Training Academy in Chennai.
Scripting history, 26-year-old Priya Semwal, who lost her husband in a counter-insurgency operation two years back, was on Saturday inducted into the technical wing of the Armed Force as a young officer.
From a college-going woman married to an Army jawan in 2006 to an officer commissioned into the Corps of the Electrical and Mechanical Engineering (EME) of the Army today, Ms. Semwal’s life has come a full circle.
Ms. Semwal is one of the 62 women, besides the 194 men, who were commissioned into the Indian Army as short service officers at the ceremonial passing out parade at the Officers Training Academy in Chennai.
The mother of the then four-year-old Khwahish Sharma, Ms. Semwal’s future looked bleak when she heard the death of her husband Naik Amit Sharma serving with the 14 Rajput regiment in a counter-insurgency operation near hilly Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh in 2012.
“Her husband was serving in my unit. In that operation, he lost his life while others suffered injuries. When I learnt Amit had encouraged her to complete degree and then PG, I thought she should become an officer,” said Colonel Arun Agarwal, Commanding Officer, 14 Rajput Regiment.
Mr. Agarwal’s word of advice, however, was not received readily. “Her brother initially asked what was I saying. She had just lost her husband and they wondered how I could have asked them then. But, eventually they all agreed,” said the Colonel, who came all the way from the border to witness Ms. Semwal become an officer.
“She (Priya Semwal) was qualified and I felt that she will do it. Initially, she had some apprehensions but once she was convinced, there was no turning back. Probably, this is the first time an Army jawan’s wife has become an officer in India,” the Colonel said.
There might be instances where wives of Army officers would have joined the force after their death, but this is probably the first time, the wife of a Non Commissioned Officer (NCO) has become an officer, he pointed out.
While Khwahish was clinging to her mother, whom everyone was taking photographs with and talking to, Ms. Semwal recalled how the Colonel’s advice motivated her. “Initially, I did not know what to do. I had a daughter studying... Later, I realised it would be only right to follow my husband into the forces,” said Ms. Semwal, smartly dressed in the Army uniform.
While Priya Semwal was only a first-year undergraduate student when she got married in 2006, she had completed post graduation in Mathematics and a Bachelor’s degree in teaching and employed in a coaching institute at her native Dehradun, when her husband was killed.
She would also earn a B Tech degree while being in Corps of the Electrical and Mechanical Engineering (EME). Standing at a distance, the officer’s mother Vaishaka Semwal, was short of words, seeing her daughter become a symbol of hope and inspiration to many.
“Though there was hesitation initially, she wanted to face it and become an officer and we supported her. We are very proud of it now,” the officer’s brother Pravesh Semwal said.
A student at the Convent of Jesus and Mary School at Dehradun, Khwahish, however, does not want to part with her mother, saying she missed her for many months during training. “I want her to join the Army too. She is very small now,” Ms. Semwal said, caressing her daughter’s head.
But, when asked whether she would remain with her grandmother, as her mother proceeded to Leh in Kashmir this April where she has been posted, little Khwahish dressed in a red frock said, “Nahi (No)” and clung to her mother again.