The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) is currently countering the Naxalites. It came into existence as Crown Representative`s Police on July 27, 1939, and after Independence, it became the Central Reserve Police Force on enactment of the CRPF Act on December 28, 1949.
Over the last 60 years, it has grown into a sizeable entity, with 207 battalions. It is a federal law enforcement agency and a police force. It has been organised, equipped, structured and trained to supplement efforts of state police forces in the maintenance of law and order.
But presently, a crisis of identity is overwhelming the CRPF. A part of the blame for the prevailing confusion about its exact character can be apportioned to the CRPF itself.
The message of its Director General on its website is a clear indication of this confusion. To start with, he refers to CRPF as one of the Ã¢Â€Â˜Para Military Police Force` of the
Nation and subsequently calls it as the most experienced `Armed Police Force` of the country.Apparently, the organisation does not know where to position itself. There can never be a Ã¢Â€Â˜paramilitary police forceÃ¢Â€Â™ Ã¢Â€Â“ a force is either a paramilitary force or a police force. The term paramilitary police force is self-contradictory, dichotomist in substance, paradoxical in nature and ambivalent in identity.
A true paramilitary force is an auxiliary force whose function and structure are similar to those of a regular military force. In other words, it should be capable of acting as an adjunct to regular military. The CRPF, by no stretch of imagination, can be called a paramilitary force. With a view to garner enhanced status and to demand equivalence with the armed forces, it has been masquerading as a paramilitary force. As a result, it has got trapped in the self created delusion that it can perform like a paramilitary force.
Facing bullets fired by highly motivated Naxalites in Chhattisgarh requires totally different capabilities as compared to those required to face stones thrown by hired hooligans in Kashmir. It is a tall order for any organisation to accomplish both the tasks with equal adroitness and dexterity. The CRPF not only lacks basic orientation to be able to face Naxalites but also the necessary wherewithal. Which is why it has been suffering heavy casualties.
Further, it is a misplaced expectation that CRPF can perform like a paramilitary force with short orientation training at counter-insurgency schools. The fighting potential of any lawfully constituted armed entity is dependent on a number of tangible and non-tangible factors. Whereas tangible factors like training and equipment can be augmented over a period of time, non-tangible factors which are far more critical take decades to mature. Traditions, precedents, norms and conventions are the non-tangible factors that provide regimental environment for the development of organisational character, ethos and disposition. Equally importantly, they mould attitude of individuals, both by implicit and explicit influences.
For example, it is an unwritten convention in the Indian army that an officer always leads from the front Ã¢Â€Â“ he is the first one to step into a danger zone. No officer thinks twice about it. It is ingrained in his character and disposition.
On the other hand, these things are alien to the police forces. We had the obnoxious sight of a police officer crossing a water logged street on the shoulders of a constable Ã¢Â€Â“ a profanity of the worst kind. Can an officer who is reluctant to wet his trousers and is accustomed to using his subordinate as a beast of burden be expected to lead his unit against Naxalites and risk death or injury?
This difference in organisational ethos is the fundamental reason that a police force can never become a paramilitary force, fallacious pretentiousness notwithstanding.
Image: The CRPF charter, from its official website