But for my dad and these men, the risks they took, the wounds they suffered..they did that for their buddies.. They may have fought for their country but they died for their friends.. for the man in front, for the man beside them
Flags of our fathers (2006)
My cameraperson Prem Mishra kept asking me this question as our flight touched the tarmac of airport at Raipur and we began work. We were there because just a few hours ago, the Maoists had ambushed and killed 11 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel, four police personnel and one civilian.
“How did they kill so many despite more than half of the personnel in the operation emerging relatively unscathed?” he asked. For a reporter, establishing facts come before analysis, I said.
The thought never left me though. It was something which nobody ever denied.
Finally, on Friday, CRPF suspended 17 men for ‘inaction/lack of satisfactory counter action’ in that incident in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district on March 11. The police also suspended its representative who was a part of that team. Though some say their only fault is that they emerged alive from a deadly ambush, officially atleast, these men now stand accused of fleeing, leaving behind their colleagues on the battlefield.
When that happens to a force it knows it can’t sink any further.
Having seen this force since the last five years, this saddens but does not surprise me.
Imagine a force in which senior officers do not wear the uniform right, imagine a force which does not feel proud of its unique identity, imagine a force in which it is not mandatory for the man on top to have experience of the toughest duty the force performs, imagine a force where the juniors complain against their seniors because they feel unheard, imagine a force which gives up on a rich tradition of annual change-over of battalions to save a few crore rupees of the government. The CRPF is such a force.
Why this is not changing can be explained by the fact that those in power are blissfully unaware of the rot that has set in. Why most don’t care is because the Maoists who kill the CRPF men do so in the jungles, away from our malls and metro trains, unlike terrorists. But can there be any doubt about the need for the Maoists to be stopped when their goal is to capture Delhi’s Red Fort?
The CRPF is equipped for it. What it needs is leadership and awareness among those who control it.