New Delhi: Women's rights activists and opposition party leaders on Monday demanded that the Vice Chief of the Army be fired for his reported remarks that female officers have no place in the Army.
"Ideally, we would like to have gentlemen and not lady officers," Lt General S Pattabhiraman had reportedly said in an interview to a newspaper after a woman officer committed suicide last week.
Pattabhiraman also said that the feedback from army ranks was that "comfort levels with lady officers are low. We can do without them."
Pattabhiraman's view on women's role in the army was sought after Lt Sushmita Chakravorty, posted in Jammu and Kashmir, committed suicide. Chakravorty's family has said she was under stress at work and unhappy with her job.
There are only around 1,000 women in non-combat roles in the Army. Most of the women are in the medical corps.
Pattabhiraman's remarks drew a storm of protests from women's groups and the BJP, demanding his removal.
"His statements are outrageous," said Suhasini Ali of the All India Democratic Women's Association. "He should not be in a position where he can influence policy," she said.
Meanwhile, the BJP demanded that the general be removed from his job. BJP leader Sushma Swaraj described the general's remarks as "most unfortunate."
Swaraj said the defence minister should remove the officer and tell him "the Indian army can do without you."
The National Commission for Women (NCW) also condemned Pattabhiraman's reported remarks.
NCW chief Girija Vyas on Monday called the comments "very irresponsible," and said it was for the government to decide on women in the army.
As protests raged, Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee tried to quell angry demands for the general's removal from office. The government policy was to encourage more women to join the armed forces, he told journalists.
Pattabhiraman was not immediately available for comment.