Mansha Beigh is a 2012 batch officer of Jammu and Kashmir Police Service (JKPS). In this interview with Mariya Younis, she talks about her life, work related challenges and what it is being a woman in a male dominated society and workplace.
What inspired you to become a police officer?
I had opted for the administrative service, which was my first preference. Police was my second choice and accounts the last. Your service selection is decided by your preference and also by your merit. The combination of preference and merit put me where I am now.
Did it ever strike you that one day you would be a police officer? What was your childhood aim?
Frankly speaking, never, never ever! I had never thought of, not even in my dreams that I would ever become a police officer. I never wanted to do a job. Not that I wasn’t ambitious. But it was like I either wanted to become a doctor, go to academics or be a homemaker – something I thought suited a woman more. But, here I am now sporting a uniform.
What was the reaction of family and friends when you got selected for the police service?
Actually, when the service was allocated, I was not comfortable. I did not want to join. In fact, I seriously considered quitting. But my father supported me. He supported me a lot. And overall, the family was also quite supportive. Friends and others, you know, the extended family had a mixed reaction. Some said that since I was brought up in a protected environment, I wouldn’t be able to do a job in the police department. Some even went on to the extent of saying that nobody would marry me given the taboos that are associated in our society with women who work in police. But my family supported me a lot.
How did it feel to be the lone female officer in your batch when you were shortlisted for the police service?
Alhamdulillah – thank God! There were two batches in 2012: batch 2012- I and batch 2012-II. I was the only female officer and it always felt great. I gave my best during the training in the academy. Because of the kind of society that we come from or the upbringing we have, it’s a proud moment when you work with your male colleagues shoulder to shoulder or even outshine them. You become an example.
Your profession is quite demanding physically. How was your training experience at the academy?
It was difficult, but then, alhamdulillah, I completed the training successfully. As an officer, there are no concessions, there are no discounts based on your gender. Once inside the academy, you are an officer. So whatever male officer is supposed to do, you are expected to perform at the same pace and level. You have these physical sessions every morning, parade and obstacle training. It is not a cakewalk. But then you get used to it and it becomes a part of your life.
What are your views on the difficulties and prejudices that female officers have to face?
When I was not a part of the service, I couldn’t imagine a female in uniform, especially one from our place. But now here I am wearing the uniform. By the grace of God, I have always received good responses from civilians, from the department, from male counterparts, seniors, juniors, everybody. The profile becomes gender neutral. It doesn’t hamper my work anywhere. The department has been very supportive throughout. It has been a great journey, a learning experience.
The participation of women in police is negligible in Kashmir. Why so?
Maybe because of the cultural orientation and the type of the society we are. Patriarchal mindset can’t be ruled out. Because of misogyny, we cannot see women in these roles – these so-called masculine or macho roles. But I would say times are changing now. I remember, ten years back, when I joined the service, people would tell me I’d be kept with a battalion rather than assigned any front line role. But, as you see, that is not the case. Not even once in my service, alhamdulillah, have I ever felt that I haven’t been taken seriously or that I am not effective. Whatever I’ve done, I have done sincerely and people have always appreciated that.
Striking a balance between professional and personal life isn’t easy. How do you manage it?
There is a slight imbalance but that is where the role of the family comes. I’ve a three-year-old daughter. My mother and husband (who is a JKAS officer) attend to her when I’m not around. Of course, they cannot be a mother to her. But then they support me, they try their best to support me because I have to be on duty from early morning till late hours. Your family life suffers a bit. But if you’ve got an understanding family, it helps a lot.
How important is it to have an understanding partner when you are in a service that requires odd hours at work?
That is really important. You cannot deny the importance of having an understanding partner who has got a good exposure. See I’m here and there is no other female colleague. Out of the ten SDPOs in Srinagar, I am the only female. I am in my vehicle, the staff is entirely male. 95 percent of the time it is males only and my work hours are odd. In such a scenario, your partner needs to be understanding. Then only can your personal life can be smooth.
It has been said that a woman understands another woman better. How do you handle cases like domestic violence or crimes related to women?
Let me tell you something about what happens whenever a female complainant comes to a police station. Men and women can usually have different ways of looking at it. When a female complainant comes to me, I never see what she is wearing or if she has put on any makeup. I won’t judge her by that. What matters to me is her problem that I’ve to address. With us female officers, women open up more. They can show us their physical injuries or marks on their body and we can be more sensitive to it. That is why the police department needs more and more women.
What challenges have you faced so far in your service? How has your experience been?
You have to push a little for assignments. I won’t blame anyone for that because it’s now that more women have started joining the department. But I must say whenever we ask our seniors for it, we get a positive response. My personal experience has been great. The department has been kind enough and very helpful. Times are changing and a positive and healthy environment has been created for women in police. You are given good postings.
How important is it for women to join police service?
As I already said, we need more and more women to join police. There is an increase in reservations for women at different levels, like non-gazetted levels, because there is a great need for women in police. When a woman can be president or prime minister, why can’t she be a police officer? It depends upon your competence. It should not be determined by your gender. That is what I feel.
What message would you like to give younger women who aspire to join police service?
I love to speak and interact more with the younger women. These women are our future. Not just those women who aspire to come or join forces, but all those forward-looking ladies who want to do something, who want to create a niche for themselves in the society. My message to them is: be sincere and work hard, nothing can stop you. You have to be sincere in whatever you are doing. If you want to become a doctor, be sincere and create a niche for yourself. Whatever you want to do in life, do it with sincerity. There are no shortcuts to success. There are no shortcuts to excellence.