The Real-Life Story of India’s First Woman IAF Pilot Gunjan Saxena

Here's all you need to know about the real Gunjan Saxena.

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Now Rolling
2 min read

Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl is all set to release on 12 August. Janhvi Kapoor plays the titular role in the film which is inspired by the life of India's first woman Air Force pilot Gunjan Saxena. In the film, Pankaj Tripathi essays the role of Gunjan's father Lt. Col. (retired) Ashok Kumar Saxena.

Gunjan Saxena's family has been serving in the Indian Army for years. Her father and brother were in the Army and she too took inspiration from them and followed suit.

Gunjan completed her graduation from Hansraj College in Delhi and then went on to take the SSB entrance exam. She joined the Indian Air Force in the 1994.

Gunjan moved to Srinagar Air Field after joining IAF. At the time she was the only woman pilot among the officers. Her entry in the academy made men uncomfortable and she was the subject of harsh discrimination.

In 1999, when the Kargil conflict was on the rise, she was asked if she had any issues. She refused and was sent to the war zone. Gunjan is one of the piloted who flew over the Kargil–Tololing–Batalik area and surveyed it to report any activity.

When casualties were reported, Gunjan went for medical evacuations. She landed her chopper on the helipad, despite it being hit by an enemy missile, and waited for injured soldiers to be carried to her chopper and successfully rescued them.

“I think it is the ultimate feeling that you can ever have as a helicopter pilot. That was one of our main roles there - casualty evacuation. I would say it’s a very satisfying feeling when you save a life because that is what you’re there for.”
Gunjan Saxena

In the 1990s Gunjan Saxena served as a short service commissioned officer but today women in the air force have a permanent commission.

(Clarification: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Gunjan Saxena was a Shaurya Chakra Awardee. The error is regretted. You can read The Quint’s fact check here: Gunjan Saxena Isn’t a Shaurya Chakra Awardee, Nor Did She Claim So)

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