- Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh will attend the commissioning in Raipur of the ‘Bastariya’ battalion of the CRPF, formed with more than 534 tribal youth from Chhattisgarh.
- More about the Bastariya Battalion
- The squad has 33% representation of women with 189 mahila constables. The new battalion has been numbered 241.
- The battalion will be immediately deployed for anti-naxal operations in some of the worst-affected areas such as Sukma, Dantewada and Bijapur, a senior official said. With recruits from Sukma, Dantewada, Narayanpur and Bijapur districts of undivided Bastar, the battalion has been raised to strengthen operations in areas where security forces have witnessed the most reverses owing to a lack of concrete intelligence and familiarisation with locals and the topography.
- The ‘Bastariya Battalion’ that came into existence on1st April 2017, has been created to enhance local representation in CRPF’s combat lay-out in the Bastar area besides providing the ‘Bastriya’ youths a full-proof platform for employment. Accordingly, its recruitment process too carried some unique features.
- While the physical standards of height and weight were relaxed to give a fair chance to the local aspirants, CRPF also walked yet another extra mile to provide pre-educational and physical training to the local youths through Civic Action Programmes so as to maximize their ability and eligibility for induction into the special formation.
What was the Salwa Judum?
- Salwa Judum was mobilised in 2005 by the late Congress leader Mahendra Karma, who was assassinated by Naxals in 2013, and deployed in parts of Chhattisgarh.
- Those in favour of the idea claim that the Judum was a “spontaneous uprising” of tribal people against Maoist violence in Bastar, and helped in countering Naxals in the region.
- Yet, by the time the force was banned by the Supreme Court in 2011, it had acquired a bloody and controversial reputation.
- The state government allegedly supplied arms and tacit support to the Judum, which had turned into a vigilante group, recruiting poorly trained youth as “Koya Commandos”, or “SPOs (Special Police Officers)”.
How similar is the Bastariya Battalion to the Salwa Judum?
- Activists argue that like the Judum, the Bastariya Battalion seeks to pit tribals against tribals and could again cleave tribal society.
- They say recruitment could again force that choice between life and death, so prevalent during the Judum days, as tribals are inevitably trapped between two hostile forces.
What is the government’s argument for raising the battalion?
- The government argues that the battalion will give the security forces an operational dimension, for which the CRPF has been completely dependent on the state police.
- The knowledge of the terrain and language, and ability to spend long hours in the forest, will be of immense help to the CRPF. Yet, the major difference between the Judum and Battalion 241, CRPF officials say, is in the “training”.
- A senior officer said, “We cannot shy away from the fact that there is a conflict. But these men are not poorly trained… They filled up forms… and have been given a 44-week training, which included not just modules on jungle warfare and weapons training, but also civic responsibilities and human rights.
- They are CRPF constables like any other, and not a vigilante group. Every single one of them filled forms to apply for this.
- the success or failure of the Bastariya Warriors in Chhattisgarh will be judged not only by their “operational successes”, but also by their human rights record. They will be under constant scrutiny of civil society, the press and, most importantly, the adivasis who live in the forests in Bastar’s conflict zone.