In an act that defines ‘war footing’, women from Madhapur village in Bhuj played a pivotal role by stepping out of their homes to restore the devastated airstrip within a span of 72 hours. This occured  after the 1971 Indo-Pak War, when a squadron of Sabre jets dropped more than 14 Napalm bombs on the Indian Air Force airstrip leaving it completely unusable. The Air Force decided to direct the Border Security Forces to repair the airstrip who then realized that the local women could do the job quickest.

“The air strip in Bhuj was completely devastated by Pakistan bombers that dropped 14 napalm bombs on the night of December 8, 1971. The air strip needed to be reconstructed on a war footing, and for which, officials were not in a position to wait for which long. They hurriedly took a decision to get the repair work done by locals. They contacted us and we responded to the crisis in an equally quick manner,” recounted Hiru Bhudia in a TOI report.

“While working, we had to scurry for shelter in bunkers often at the sound of a siren. Taking shelter in bunkers during air strikes, we had to survive on Sukhadi’ and chilli,”

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The women who were all daily wagers covered the airstrip with cow dung to camouflage it from enemy planes. “While working, we had to scurry for shelter in bunkers often at the sound of siren. Taking shelter in bunkers during air strikes, we had to survive on Sukhadi’ and chilli,” said Lachhani, another woman who toiled on the air strip.

Valbai Seghani who was also part of the 300 women said that she felt no less than a soldier while working on the repairs of the airstrip. Speaking to Ahmedabad Mirror recently, she said, “I am only 74 and I can serve my soldiers and my country again if they need me. Pakistan should know that we are not born to be defeated.”

Last year in July,  the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar inaugurated ‘Virangana Smarak’, a war memorial dedicated to these women.

Picture credit- Facebook/Shankar Dedha

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