First Person | Soldiers All

We also need to remember the unsung heroes of the CRPF 

Ghazala WahabGhazala Wahab

Lieutenant Navdeep Singh, an Ordnance Corps officer, serving in the 15th battalion of the Maratha Light Infantry and posted on the Line of Control, was recently martyred in northwest Kashmir. His team intercepted a bunch of infiltrators trying to sneak in across the Kishan Ganga river in a boat. That the news of his death managed to penetrate the Anna-fast generated cacophony to reach the national consciousness is the testimony to the efforts of his brothers-in-arms, who rightly ensured that Lt Singh does not remain as unsung hero. A timely-written tribute by a budding journalist also went viral on the Internet within days of his martyrdom, thereby making sure that those who did not heed the news then did so now. Tales of bravery and martyrdom should not go unsung. For the collective conscience of the nation, it is necessary that we always remember act of valour, virtuousness, magnanimity and human endurance. Written well, each such story should become part of junior school textbooks or readers, so that children are acquainted with these values early in life. If taught through real-life stories and heroes these values are likely to have greater retention than as abstract, didactic messages.

In that respect, Lt Singh has been fortunate. Several stories of unimaginable courage are lost simply because those who were witness to it or those who were tasked to disseminate the news forgot to do so. On August 15, when the government announced the list of bravery medals for the uniformed personnel, the recipients were reduced to mere names on the list. Names, unaccompanied by the incidents are meaningless and quickly forgotten. Here is then a rapid-fire recount of those who we should remember.Constable Ashish Kumar Tiwary of CRPF’s 202 CoBRA battalion has posthumously been awarded the Shaurya Chakra this year for an operation that took place in the Jangal Mahal area of West Bengal last year.

A general duty constable, Tiwary was part of the team led by assistant commandant Pancham Lal which was tasked to carry out combing operations in the Metala forest of the Lalgarh district following a series of incidents, including one assassination attempt on the then chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya. Operating on specific information, AC Lal’s team moved into the area where they believed a group of Maoists, including the guerrilla squad leader Sidhu Soren, to be camping. Constable Tiwary went ahead to ascertain the strength of the Maoists and realised that the group was heavily armed.

Along with his commanding officer, Tiwary started to crawl towards the Maoists camp. They had barely started, when the Maoists started firing. They had also mined the area outside their camp. Seeing the approaching CRPF men, the Maoists started to blow up the mines. However, to ensure that the Maoists, especially Sidhu Soren does not escape, Tiwary picked up his weapon and plunged into the camp. Despite being hit, Tiwary managed to kill three Maoists including Soren before collapsing. However, his most important achievement was not killing the threesome but ensuring that the rest of his teammates including his CO were not endangered. The larger gain of this operation was that it paved the way for more such operations in an area in which the state government had virtually ceded control to the Maoists.

While Tiwary and his compatriots were recognised by the government and hopefully some people may also remember their valour, it would be fitting to remember yet another incident that happened in September 2009. It was the first ever operation by the CRPF’s special unit CoBRA. A team of six from 201 CoBRA battalion, that included assistant commandant N. Manoranjan Singh and assistant commandant Rakesh Kumar Chaurasia, were tasked to enter yet another bastion of the Maoists in the Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh. The operation carried out in the forest of Palechilema was to be the precursor of future operations. Even as the team succeeded in killing a large number of Maoists, destroying a rifle-making factory and bursting large quantity of ammunition in the three-day operation, all six members of the team were killed.

For reasons best known to the CRPF, this operation was brushed under the carpet. Even when the news leaked out in trickle, the senior CRPF brass did not think it fit to recommend any of the personnel involved in the operation for gallantry award or commendation. Perhaps, the CRPF top brass felt that if the word spreads that all six CoBRA personnel died in their first operation it would demoralise the force. Clearly, their idea of morale is different. Nothing can be more demoralising that an act of valour gone unnoticed. Since 2008, over 250 CRPF personnel have died in the counter-Naxal operations alone. If their martyrdom is not recognised by their own, how can you blame the outsiders?

Operations may fail, but soldiers don’t. They only obey orders, which could be ill-planned or ill-judged. That’s no reason why someone’s martyrdom be judged less than others. In this respect also, it seems that the CRPF needs to take a cue from the army.


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