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INTERVIEW
‘CRPF is Fully Capable of Taking on the CI Ops Along With the State Police if a Competent Authority Deems it so’
Inspector General, Operations, Kashmir, Central Reserve Police Force, B.N. Ramesh
Since the entire Kashmir Valley is your area of responsibility, can you please give a run-down of your deployments?

We have a total of 28 battalions in the Kashmir Valley, with 12 being in north and 16 in south. We have identified some areas as critical. Hence, the concentration of forces in those areas is more. For instance, in Sopore which is the most critical area, we have deployed three battalions. There is another one towards Handwara. While in places like Sumbal (which often sees Shia-Sunni issues) and Bandipora, we have a battalion each, at Baramullah and Kupwara (primarily for anti-militancy operations which we conduct along with the army) we have two battalions.

Of the 16 battalions in south Kashmir, one is specifically earmarked for the law and order role. We also have the responsibility of manning the Jawahar tunnel where we carry out road opening patrols, in addition to guarding it against infiltration, destruction and natural calamities. In addition to that we have deployments in Bijbehara, Kokernag and Verinag areas. We have two battalions Kulgam and Anantnag and three at Awantipora. There are additional two battalions in the outskirts of Srinagar.
What is the difference in your joint operations with the army and the police in terms of your role and equipment?

We adopt a holistic approach including tactics when we operate with the army. We have daily interaction with the Special Operation Group (SOG) of the Kashmir police, the Rashtriya Rifles (RR) as well as the Paras. But at the field level, most of our interaction is with the RR. At policy levels, I interact regularly with the GOC 15 Corps as well as the force commanders of Kilo and Victor force (RR formations). In addition to this, we also interact with the Border Security Force, the Intelligence Bureau and other government of India agencies operating in Kashmir.

We conduct two kinds of operations: preventive and intelligence-based, for which the source of information could be the CRPF, RR or the local police. However, the most powerful intelligence comes from the state police. In fact, the best source of human intelligence is the state police. But over time, we have also improved our intelligence-gathering capabilities. We also do cordon and search operations and people’s operations basically to instil confidence among the vulnerable sections, like Bakerwals, Gujjars and so on.

When you conduct joint operations, either with the army or the police, who leads it?

Leading of operations is a bit of a misnomer here. As I said earlier, operations are conducted based on intelligence. And once intelligence is received, it is the question of response time. Depending upon who can respond in what time frame, each force is given a role to play. We must understand that in Kashmir there is a very close relation between counter-insurgency operations and law and order. If CI ops are not handled properly its impact upon the law and order situation is such that the future CI ops are forced to take a back seat. There have been occasions when for the sake of maintaining law and order, we had to compromise on CI ops. While conducting any kind of operations, therefore, we have to take extra care to ensure that we do not walk into the trap laid by the militants whereby they succeed in influencing the people against us. Our main job is to instil the belief among the Kashmiri people that we are not ‘Indians’ but one of their own.

Hence, I believe, law and order, CI ops and civic action programmes are the three prongs of the same strategy, which is to win the hearts and minds of the people. And the auditors of this policy at the field level should be the people, which is why the CRPF is doing reinvention of its attitudes towards the operations that it conducts. From being peripheral observers, we are bringing the people to forefront so that they become our partners and subsequently the auditors of our conduct.

Do you think that at some stage, CRPF would be in a position to take over greater responsibilities in CI ops from the RR, in case the government of India decides to send the army back to its primary role?

I have great respect for the army ethos. I am aware that there are forces inside Kashmir who want to create a rift among the security forces and exploit it for their interest. I refuse to walk into this trap. I have been here six months and I follow the policy of maintaining excellent relations with all forces both at the policy level and the field level, because all security personnel are the same. When we lose one security personnel, whether he is from the army, police or CRPF we lose not only a hand but morality. This is the reason I tell my men here that your relationship with the environment in Kashmir should be that of a LIC (life insurance) policy and not an ATM. It should be insurance to yourself as well as to the people. I tell them, your training is your insurance. I have coined a slogan emphasising this: sushiksha hi suraksha hai (good training is security).

Coming to the issue of withdrawal of the RR, I am not the competent person to speak on this issue. All I can say is that, the CRPF is fully capable of taking on the CI ops in the state along with the state police if a competent authority deems it so. I don’t desire that RR should vacate, neither do I demand that they vacate nor will I flinch if they vacate.

Are your boys doing any kind of training with the army at its Corps Battle School?

The army has been kind to us. Since November 2010, it has trained each one of our Quick Action Teams (QAT), headed by deputy commandants and second-in-commands. The army has given them very good credits for their participation in this six weeks training. Post-training, we created a cadre of ToT, which are trainers who have undergone training. Now they are imparting the same training to those who could not be given the seats by the army. Earlier this kind of training used to be organised at the directorate level, but now we are doing intensive theatre-specific training.

Going a step further, what we are doing now is age and regional profiling of our men to determine their skills. For instance, those from Bengal are good at swimming, boys from Uttarakhand can climb better and the Northeast ones are excellent at jungle warfare. We are taking these strengths of India to restructuring our QATs to optimise results. Even as we talk some of my boys are taking the examination for the best QAT in Kashmir. This is something that had not happened earlier.

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