Jawans: ‘Our deaths becoming business as usual for govt’


An account of the unheard voices one picked up along the journey into the gruesome conflict zone this has theatre emerged as, yet again

The treacherous terrain which belongs to Latehar's Katiya forests. Photo: Jugal R Purohit.

The treacherous terrain which belongs to Latehar’s Katiya forests. Photo: Jugal R Purohit.

It was 1300hrs when their CO (Commanding Officer) started addressing them. Barely into the speech, his choked voice wasn’t the only one I could hear. Several of his men, who lost their ‘buddies’ were now sobbing. It was difficult not to get touched.

Almost as a ritual, the men shouted back ‘Haan’, when the CO asked if they were ready to fight the insurgents again. May be they wanted to avenge the deaths of their colleagues or may be had no option.

RELATED REPORTS FROM LATEHAR

With every occasion one gets to travel to a conflict zone, especially in the wake of an unfortunate tragedy like this one, the frustration among the ground soldiers becomes increasingly glaring. Frustration and morale are separate things and not to be confused, at least initially. What if frustration becomes repetitive? Would it then affect morale?

As I travelled to tell the story of the latest humiliation of the Indian nation in the jungles of Latehar, came the news from Dantewada of the acquittal of all those apprehended for the April 2010 massacre of 76 security personnel. “Such things affect our men deeply,” a worried CRPF Commandant told me later that day.

Those at the senior level concede to the feeling of frustration among men but tend to restrict it to a particular instance. Also there are those who think their troops enjoy high morale, almost always.

But what is one to derive when those operating on the middle level say that the administration failed to prevent corruption from taking away drinking water and ration from them when they were fighting on the battleground? This especially in a theatre where it is common for the enemy to poison wells and ensure villagers do the same if asked by forces. Try decoding the feeling when a junior officer tells you that in absence of any specific intelligence they were begging for intelligence from village to village, even as that helped rebels plan a successful ambush. Then there is one where a team of jawans sprinted across 3km with their injured colleagues, to get them evacuated by a helicopter only to find it gone because of ‘dust’, leading one of them to say, “You feel like pumping bullets into those glorified drivers (read pilots).” Another officer told me, “Jawans are ready to die because they don’t realize that for the government, it is business as usual once compensation money has been provided to the  family. The day when this realisation seeps in among jawans, you will have soldiers refusing to obey orders.”

A jawan who had fought on the ground in the present operation told me, “The danger in this operation was clear to all as this was no ordinary group. And yet our seniors did not ensure we had a UAV to provide us local intelligence.” Unmanned Aerial Vehicles of different types are available with the government as well as the CRPF. This jawan was referring to the mini-UAV Netra which can fly for over a kilometer and relay the picture. Amowatikar village in Latehar, Jharkhand. The bloody exchange of fire took place outside this village. Photo by Jugal R Purohit.

Amowatikar village in Latehar, Jharkhand. The bloody exchange of fire took place outside this village. Photo: Jugal R Purohit.

There are more such tales that men told me about, in the hope that a journalist can change what their seniors have not been able to.

This pent-up anger is acquiring newer manifestations.

Like the one which the Director General of the CRPF, Pranay Sahay encountered at Daltonganj last Thursday. In the recreation room of the battalion headquarters, he faced an emotional jawan who wanted him to explain the logic of withdrawing when they all knew of insurgents in a particular location. Why, he asked, the DG failed to mobilize more forces to cordon and finish the insurgents when they were holed up there for 72 hours. He was told they will re-organise and fight again.

I never found out what that jawan thought of his answer.

Adding layers of perplexities to the jawan’s mind were the brutalities inflicted on their dead colleagues – not new by any standards and insurgents wearing uniforms identical to the forces (actually to that of Jharkhand Jaguar – a state police special force) thereby using confusion to kill. I also learnt that the Maoists created a ‘favourable climate’ during this encounter by making women and children chant tribal sounds and burst crackers to win the psychological war.

Brutalities inflicted upon the bodies of slain jawans has caused deep resentment among the forces. Denying dignity to the dead is unacceptable, they said. Photo: Jugal R Purohit.
Brutalities inflicted upon the bodies of slain jawans has caused deep resentment among the forces. Denying dignity to the dead is unacceptable, they said. Photo: Jugal R Purohit.

Speaking from Delhi, a gallantry-award winning officer said, “CRPF’s mindset of operating in aid of civil police needs to change. This approach often allows us to not take responsibilities that we must and helps us in passing the buck.” There are other challenges that his seniors in the force pointed out. Be it unified command or availability and utilization of assets or providing legal support to the troops, there is not much that has happened which encourage.

A day before I left Jharkhand, I went back to the encounter site outside the Amowatikar village. After a brief discussion, a villager whispered to me, pointing towards the precise site, “Party (CPI Maoist) ke log aaye hai. Abhi kuch aur patrakar aaye the, unko bitha liya hai party walon ne.” As I kick-started the bike for a speedy return, it dawned upon me that while the forces had retreated, the rebels had returned.

Guess who won.

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16 thoughts on “Jawans: ‘Our deaths becoming business as usual for govt’”

  1. I have read your account and feel that we have to learn lessons from what has happened, is happening and will continue to happen unless we make some drastic changes for the better. First and foremost the type of force required to tackle such a group of ANE’s/militants/insurgents/maoists call them what you may. The CRPF is possibly the right kind of force but it is structured and functions in an incorrect mode. The need of the hour is for an anti-terrorist force and not a police organization. If you go back into history, the CRPF is a legacy of British India. “It came into existence as Crown Representative’s Police on 27th July 1939. It became the Central Reserve Police Force on enactment of the CRPF Act on 28th December 1949. The Central Reserve Police Force is an armed Force of the Union of India, with the basic role of striking reserve to assist the State/Union Territories in Police operations to maintain law and order and contain insurgency. Its role is that of a catalyst in maintaining law & order, and returns to barracks once this objective is achieved. The force is also being used for various police duties in various States”. Please note the emphasis on its role as in policing & maintaining law & order. The aspect of insurgency spells at assisting the state police force in “CONTAINING” it. A passive approach to say the least. To expect a force of this nature to go into offensive operations is just asking for too much. As a result though aping the organizational structure of the Army, they have failed to integrate the one most essential component and that is leadership. Consider this, though generically called Jawans, they are essentially “Constables” which implies moving on a Beat. The ranks above a constable are similar to that in any police force viz, Head Constable, Inspector and so on. Cadre officers start as assistant commandants and become company commanders on appointment. The junior leadership at the platoon and section level is that of “INSPECTORS”. Therefore the basic grounding at the sub and sub sub unit level of the officer cadre is missing. Did you in your visit run into any “officer” above the level of the Inspector with the ill fated patrol? I presume you did not…. There is the first contradiction……. To be continued.

    1. Most of my friends working as assistant commandant in crpf. they told me that they lead the jawans in minor operations and also dc commands in others, on ground. This is wrong perception that officers are not fighting on ground. The operations, patrolling and all such activities are usual issue over there. Those in Armed forces GET timely promotion, gud salary, peace posting, wat is there for crpf and other paramilitary jawans. they are risking their life more than any other force doing these days fo meagre salary and facility. And if you compare their abillty by number earlier this year in j & k in operations crpf killed many millitants while comparing to the losses they suffered it was better than army’s performance.

  2. So How do we get over this. To my mind there are two options open to the powers that control the CRPF. Firstly that the level of initial induction of Asst Comdt’s should be at the platoon level and not the Company level. A minimum of four years exposure at this level in such operational areas should be mandatory to climb the heirarchial ladder. Out of these three years the first six months must be on deputation to an RR or AR Battalion engaged in CI operations. This should be followed by a composite course of three months duration under the Infantry School Junior Leader Wing at Belgaum wherein the syllabus should comprise of one month each of “Commando Training”, “Jungle Warfare as in CI operations” and handling of “Battalion Support Weapons”. Consequent to this should be a posting to the area of operations. The same should apply to direct entry inspectors at the appropriate level of induction. The second option is the immediate lateral induction of short service commissioned officers of the Army after their 5 year stint into such battalions deployed in these areas. Similarly lateral induction of JCO’s & OR at the service group of 18-19 years in the case of the former and 14-15 years in the case of the latter. This option would be an interim measure so as to have a trained manpower pool available for immediate induction till the force can have its own set of personnel with the same standard of training. A loose comparision to the US National Guard units and personnel. I would add a caveat that any lateral induction from the IPS at any level should have gone through this regimen before being seconded to the CRPF or any other Central Armed Police Force Organization. As regards training of rank and file this should follow similar lines and be imparted seperately to those earmarked for such duties as against those enrolled as General Duty constables. It would therefore follow that rotation of such personnel would be within the confines of such units deployed on such duties unless age or medical fitness comes in the way. A corollary to this would be that the maximum age of all ranks serving in such units should not be more than 45 years for the senior most ranks of such units that of the Commandant and the senior most Inspector……. To be continued.

  3. 1.Having dealt with manpower and their training to cope with such tasks, let us now turn towards the weapons profile of the units assigned these tasks.
    2.By now we are quite certain that these groups, call them what you might are fairly well armed. They carry personal weapons ranging from country made kattas to AK-47’s. They also have weapons stolen from encounters, lifted from police outposts during their attacks and of course supplied from their benefactors, in all probabality the ISI or its unaccountable aliasses operating in India.
    3.To counter these, as a thumb rule and from my hands on experience in combatting three different kinds of insurgencies in service, to ensure ascendancy over any militant outfit, our force must make them aware that we have weapons that can hit them at a range further than what they can hit us with. This simple rule can keep any militant outfit away from any given area for a period of time.
    One of the shortcomings of the CRPF battalions are the weapons authorized to their units. These are: –
    1.FN 35 and Glock 17 9 mm pistols*
    2.Heckler & Koch MP5 replacing the Carbine 1A 9 mm sub-machine guns*
    3.INSAS 5.56 mm assault rifles
    4.INSAS 5.56 mm light machine guns replacing the Bren L4 machine guns
    5.AGS-30 Plamya 30 mm automatic grenade launcher
    6.AK 47 and AKM
    7.Tavor TAR-21
    8.X-95 5.56 MM Assault Rifle. Indian copy of the Tavor TAR-21 procured from Israel.
    * Parliament protection duties only.
    As you can see they lack the basic punch as suggested by me in paragraph 3, Viz what we in the Army call Battalion Support Weapons, these could be the 7.62 MMG, the 84 MM Carl Gustav rocket launcher or even the battalion commanders topkhana the 81 MM Mortar. The very knowledge, and this needs maximum publicity that battalions being inducted into the Red Zone are equipped with such weapons at an appropriate scale would bring about a drastic reduction in the renegade activity. You see it hurts the other side too more so when you cannot hit back.
    To add to this give these units the facility of reconaissance capability with a flight of lightly armed chetak helicopters who move ahead of patrolling columns would deter any setting up of ambushes as “Big Brother is watching”.
    Finally the need for individual night vision devices cannot be overemphasised.
    ………… To be Continued

  4. COMMENT ON EMAIL:
    Everytime I see it–the only one question I have is what do they achieve by mutilating bodies and killing security personnel. The real issues are long forgotten.

  5. COMMENT ON EMAIL:

    I think some TV channels should run a programme called ‘India at war’… There isn’t any media investment in the several conflicts Indian forces are engaged in. No analysis of why other instruments of state policy cannot be used to solve these problems… why India finds herself in the midst of so much conflict.

    These encounters and losses are symptoms of a combative polity at war with itself. Why are we so combative? It pains me to see the unnecessary waste of lives.

  6. COMMENT ON EMAIL:

    hi,read the article. its really touching and equally frustrating as actually its just a another encounter /business for the govt as u rightly pointed out. they have not lost their near or dear ones so they can never appreciate. They are paying us for getting sacrificed for the nation , is what they think, as v have joined the forces.
    keep highlighting the issues of armed forces and keep doing the good work.

  7. COMMENT ON EMAIL:

    One comment for your info….totally endorse

    Integrity & Intent towards development, growth, education, health,
    infrastructure, self reliance and not subsidies are the tools….BUT
    there is no governance

    Believe me Jugal, so long we have this combination of Sonia(power
    without responsibility) and Manmohan(appointment with no authority and
    allergic to accountability), we cannot progress…all down the chain
    prefer status quo and wish to live in their comfort zones

  8. I personally feel that the CRPF is being used by the politico-bureaucratic
    combine to defame the poor people of extremely backward and under-developed
    regions of our country. Instead of calling them derogatory names such as
    Maoists (we must not forget that Mao was a Chinese leader and calling them
    Maoists means they have extra-territorial loyalties) we must do some
    introspection and try to find out why these poor people are risking their
    lives to fight a well equipped government force.
    The fact of the matter is that the government spends crores of rupees
    supposedly in looking after them and for their development, but actually
    all that money ends up in the pockets of bureaucrats and politicians. Every
    bureaucrat, or 99% of them, has a property in multiple metropolitan cities.
    Where does all that money come from? We know what their background is and
    what their salary is!! The welfare of these poor people, the so called
    Maoists, is the last thing on the minds of the “rulers” of this country.
    Instead of deploying the CRPF and Air Force helicopters, and instead of
    deploying a Brigadier to train the para-military forces in
    counter-insurgency, we should try to ensure that the money that is meant to
    go in for developmental activities in these areas actually reaches the
    genuine beneficiaries or for building infrastructure in these backward
    areas. If this is done the so called “Maoist” problem will disappear. But
    who will give this any thought – our prince charming, the PM to be, the one
    who makes Robert Vadra look like Einstein?
    The so called Maoists are simple and sincere people. Let us take care of
    them and they will contribute manifold to the nation.
    Ashim

  9. Dear Jugal, as I read your captioned headlines I cannot but draw a parallel to my thought process discoveries.
    It is high time the Indian public and services realise that the present process of government, security, education and other processes is all a humbug. It seems to be each one for oneself. This will definitely bring about a revolution. I see it in our maritime education. No one really seems to care.

  10. It was a very incisive piece from the field. Reactions of men everywhere are the same, if they doubt their officers integrity towards the cause. If they feel that their Saab is with them through thick and thin, then they will be ready to go through hell and hardships. I havent seen much of paramilitary forces, but whatever little I have seen of them like CISF, isnt inspiring. The Officers are far removed from their men and have an elitist mindset.

  11. dear, basically things are very complicated on ground zero… many factors are responsible for this complication & confusion which always lead to perfact disaster. presence of multiple forces on ground, then compulsion of joint troops (BSF in odisha still shielding themselves behind the old communique of MHA which say it should be 1:3 for every ops), not cross-checking the input (is it necessary to operate on every input when we have already experienced heavy losses due to this single factor…?), not appreciating ground by the officers/men, seniors will not listen their field officers/men, juniors will not present their point of view before seniors, since troops are operating on every input, junior officers/jawan consider every ops as fatigue and routine and then ending in such type of result, pilots will quote BCA’s guidelines while even operating in jungles (can any agency arrange fire-brigade/Ambulance/ cemented Helipad etc. in battle field…?), tendency of every agency to pass the buck to other’s table (main reason why every agency insist upon joint ops so that state police easily point the fingure toward CAPF or vice-versa) etc…..
    solution is very simple… dont decide everything in Delhi or state capital. why cant senior officials of MHA/CAPF visit company/BN locations to interact with officers/men who matters…? why cant helicopter land at rural/jungle area to evacuate injured soldiers when during election campaign private aviation company’s bird make landings ignoring all guidelines…? what is the necessity of joint operations which most of the time just a time-killing process with net result such a big zero…? let it be monocular force’s ops with the knowledge of other ground forces so that there should be no friendly fire. thats all…

  12. Sir, my heart goes out to your sincere efforts to do justice to your work and the risk you all put to your selves in order to enlighten the citizens of the country the constrains under which our military and police forces operate.It is high time the necessary effective actions are taken by those in power to remove the militancy totally.Half hearted efforts only become an encouragement to such elements.
    Great work!! Pl. ensure personal safety to carry on with the wonderful work.
    All the Best to you and your team.
    Rustom.

  13. I was only giving my views on the CRPF not being geared up to tackle such situations and that I will keep on hold till you tell me to continue. To answer all your posts Armed intervention is an extension of state policy. However it should be the last resort in conflict resolution. Haveall our efforts failed towaeds this end? Is this the only way out? Have all factors for the solving of the problem been taken into account? Hae the state Govt raised its hands? The answer is an emphatic “NO”. To therefore do a knee jerk and send in various DISORGANIZED forces with varying command and control will lead to more such incidents as mentioned in the first line of my first post. Notwithstanding, Let me know if you wish me to continue the correction format of the force/s employed on such missions.

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