To Conquer Her Land
Dates2009 - 2013
To Conquer Her Land “I am here to conquer the land … not fall in love with it.
To Conquer Her Land
“I am here to conquer the land … not fall in love with it.”
The border between India and Pakistan is like its own world. Since partition this border has seen war, smuggling—of people, arms, drugs—firing, jingoistic parades, killing, suicide bombing, fireworks, lonely tears and little moments of glory.
In September 2009, India’s first women soldiers were deployed at the India-Pakistan border from Punjab to near the first line of control in Kashmir. Comprised of women from different parts of the country the composition of these women’s battalions is a microcosm of the Indian state, cutting across intricate and complex issues of poverty, case, youth and gender.
Between 2009 and 2012 this project follows a group of women from their last days at home to the barracks, through a training camp and active duty patrolling the tense borderland between India and Pakistan.
Patrolling these barren lands they try to come to terms with their new responsibilities, undergoing an intense transformation in the process: it is impossible to recreate or restore what they’ve left behind. Theirs is a country so vast that all lines seem to disappear, yet contains a deathly silence so white, haunting, and exact that it can create peace even in a land on the brink of war.
“We felt proud and weak at the same time. [The] border almost had become a figment of our imagination.”
More women in India are in the armed forces than ever before. Yet most of them are painfully alone. Military culture, which can be intimidating, has not been particularly tailor-made for women. The Indian woman in the forces is not only battling against the enemy, but also against a largely patriarchal society. Many of these women joined the army to fight this state of affairs as well as to find an escape from their dire rural livelihood. For these women, putting on a uniform was like coming out of their own skin. They saw it as a way of gaining some form of independence.
“If you have to be a soldier, you have to prove yourself mentally and physically all the time. You are not a man or a woman anymore.”
With an undefined sense of patriotism, strength of mind and a level of stress previously unknown to them, these women must come face to face with the truth of conflict and deal with the realities of living the life of a young good soldier.