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'Loss or challenge has never put the CRPF on the backfoot'

February 16, 2019 09:53 IST

'Eeit ka jawab patthar se denge.'
'We will do whatever it takes to ensure that such a loss does not happen again.'

Home Minister Rajnath Singh and security officials pay homage in Srinagar, February 15, 2019, to the CRPF soldiers who were murdered in a suicide bomb attack on February 14, 2019. Photograph: Umar Ganie for Rediff.com

IMAGE: Home Minister Rajnath Singh and security officials pay homage in Srinagar, February 15, 2019, to the CRPF soldiers who were murdered in a suicide bomb attack on February 14, 2019. Photograph: Umar Ganie for Rediff.com

K Durga Prasad, who retired as director general of the Central Reserve Police Force in 2017, is deeply shocked about the massacre of 41 CRPF personnel.

"If the general public is so shaken, you can understand what someone who has led the force will feel. It is a very tragic and big loss," the IPS officer from the Andhra Pradesh cadre, who previously headed the Special Protection Group, tells Rediff.com's Archana Masih.

 

What are the challenges that confront the CRPF in Kashmir?

Unlike the army, the CRPF is mostly deployed in civilian areas. Almost everywhere, they are handling civilian situations.

We are deployed in the valley in different places dealing with civilians disturbances like stone pelting, and situations which go to the extent where grenades have been lobbed at us. There even has been firing.

We do not resort to firing until we hold back as much as possible because civilian lives are equally important to us.

That collateral damage is acceptable is not the way the CRPF works. We are very careful and circumspect about it.

We have been attacked in the past and we have dealt with the attacks effectively.

The convoy movement came under attack in 2016. After that, there were proposals of armouring the convoys though it would mean that the convoy would become considerably slower.

At that time the attack was by automatic machine guns opening fire indiscriminately.

There were no attack on convoys after that primarily because we had road opening procedures, checking for IEDs etc.

Among the security forces, the CRPF faced two of the biggest attacks? Why?

The CRPF is the additional arm of the J&K police which has strengthened them enormously.

A team of officers also works with the J&K police in anti-terrorist operations.

This commando team has worked very well between the two. In the last one year almost 240 terrorists have been eliminated.

The morale of the terrorists has been lowered. The peak that they saw after Burhan Wani's killing has been tempering down.

They had to do something and they brought in something they did 18 years back.

Previously they did it in a stationary target, a building. This time they have targeted a mobile convoy.

Could the attack have been anticipated?

No. This method was not on the radar at all.

People are saying that such a big convoy made them an easy target. They rammed a vehicle packed with explosives into the convoy, whether it was a two vehicle convoy or 40 vehicles, it is the same.

This suicide bomber had decided to kill himself and extract maximum damage.

Sitting in AC rooms people can say whatever they want, but the field reality is different.

It is being said that civilian traffic should have been restricted when there was such a large troop movement.

Is it possible in a democratic country to say that because there is a vehicle movement of security forces, therefore everybody stay at home!

That too when the road opens several days after it was cut off because of snow and is the only land connectivity between Jammu and Srinagar.

Can you tell people that we have to keep the road closed for another day because security forces have to move? It would be ridiculous!

It is a 200 plus km national highway and it is not possible to have men posted in every lane and bylane.

We should look at sending them by 2 or 3 IL 76s because the cost would be the same. The risks would not be there.

We should look at solutions like that rather than TV channels asking whose head should roll.

This is the second biggest attack on the CRPF after the attack by Naxalites that took the life of 76 personnel in Chhattisgarh in 2010. How will it impact the force?

The CRPF has see even more difficult situations in the past in different theatres. That has not stopped us from discharging our duties with as much fervour.

The loss of 76 men in Chhattisgarh did not deter us there.

In fact, we were instrumental in laying the largest network of roads in the interior villages of Chhattisgarh in 2015-2016 which would have continued even after that.

Loss or challenge has never put the CRPF on the backfoot. We will absorb the loss and go forward.

Is it true that before Burhan Wani's killing, Kashmir was thought of an easier posting for the CRPF compared with Naxal areas of Chhattisgarh?

It is a question of hot, hotter, hottest. None are cool or comfortable situations.

The support system available in J&K is far better than Chhattisgarh. Connectivity, communication is much worse in Naxal infected areas. But it doesn't mean that Kashmir is a better place.

You have to confront stone pelting with the intention of provoking and restrain yourself from using extreme force.

The kind of training required for that restraint is huge and different from training required for the Naxal theatre.

If you were serving today, what would you have told the CRPF trooper travelling in the next bus from the one that exploded? Someone who saw what happened to a brother officer?

'Eeit ka jawab patthar se denge (We will retaliate hard)' and we will do whatever it takes to ensure that such a loss does not happen again.

Archana Masih / Rediff.com
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