There are two Central Reserve Police Forces (CRPFs) in India. One, manned by those who join the force young, learning the ropes, quite literally, both in the CRPF training academies and the scorching areas of operations where get posted. The second CRPF is inhabited by the officers of the Indian Police Service who come to the force on deputation, stay on for a few years before moving on to other areas. They sometimes come back to lead, not from the front, but from the perspective that is shaped more by their world-view than the realities of the force they lead. The two CRPFs often work together in harmony, but they seldom converge. Their worlds, their career trajectories and even their social mores follow different tracks. And in between these two worlds, simmer the problems which hold the force back from realising its actual potential. Such clearly delineated two forces within one is a wonder of India. While this wonder is not unique to the CRPF, it has perhaps not divided any other Paramilitary force as crucially in recent times as the CRPF, which is in the eye of the storm today.
Knowledgeable people have been writing tomes on what ails the CRPF. Analysts and thinkers have been dissecting the force sitting in television studios. From inadequate training to poor standard of officer cadre everything is being laid bare for the common man. The ground swell of sympathy for the CRPF after 73 of its men and two officers were butchered by the Maoists or Left Wing Extremists (the quaint term that the government has chosen for these terrorists) in Tadmetla village of the Dantewada region of Chhattisgarh gradually turned into critical appraisal. And the government appointed a committee led by a retired IPS officer and former director general of the Border Security Force, E.N. Rammohan to not only investigate how a party of 82 soldiers fell in the Maoist trap so haplessly but also to fix responsibility from assistant commandant onwards till the ministry of home affairs. While this could have been an opportunity to explore the overall malaise that afflicts the force; unfortunately, the heat generated by the brutal massacre of 6 April 2010 continues to overwhelm reason. By the looks of it, the exercise would be reduced to merely fixing blame, which probably would be heaped on those who cannot defend themselves. Despite simmering resentment within the ranks and files of the CRPF, life will go on. As one middle-ranking CRPF cadre officer says with an air resignation, “Those who understand do not have the power to decide, those who decide don’t understand.”