The Naxal-hotbed of Bastar makes news not just for the killings of Maoists and security forces at the hands of each other (with innocent villagers often losing life as well in cross-fire) but also for suicide and fratricide within the ranks, as the latest incident of 4 December testifies. Consider a few cases of fratricide that have occurred in the camps of security forces in various districts of Bastar in Chhattisgarh.
- 19 June 2019: A jawan shot dead his two colleagues at CRPF camp Naemed in Bijapur district.
- 10 December 2017: A jawan of CRPF’s 168 Bn killed four personnel over an argument at Basaguda camp in Bijapur.
- 12 May 2013: After a feud got out of control, a security force jawan shot dead his three colleagues at Bade Marenga in Jagdalpur.
- 25 December 2012: A CRPF jawan killed his four colleagues at Aranpur in Dantewada district.
These incidents of fratricide are just the tip of an iceberg, as there are several cases of suicide and fratricide among the personnel from Central security forces and state police force working in Bastar -- one of the most volatile territories in the Red Corridor. The number of suicides is higher than fratricide cases.
Between 2007 and 2019, a total of 148 security force personnel, who were on duty in Naxal-affected districts in Bastar had committed suicide.
According to a data tabled in the Rajya Sabha this year, over 930 police personnel, including those from the paramilitary forces, have committed suicide in the last five years. There were 307 paramilitary personnel who committed suicide between 2016 and 2018. Among the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF), between 2012 and 2015, the highest number of suicides was reported by the CRPF with 149 deaths.
The incident of fratricide that occurred at Kadena in Narayanpur district of Chhattisgarh on Wednesday in which a jawan from Indo-Tibetan Border Police shot dead four of his colleagues with an AK-47 rifle and killed himself, reflects deep-seated frustration and suppressed anger among the jawans serving in a conflict zone.
Narayanpur district in Chhattisgarh that is close to Maharashtra border, is a hotbed of Left Wing Extremism (LWE). The Abujhmad region in the district is known as the most volatile, impenetrable fortress and epicentre of Maoist insurgency. For the state police and central paramilitary forces, operating in this district is not only a big challenge but equally stressful, with high-risk factor.
“In conflict zones like Jammu and Kashmir and areas affected by LWE, the jawans have to function under high-level of stress. In fact, in many cases, they are over-stressed, over-worked and have to stay away from home and family for over a long period of time. Moreover, they are under constant life threat from militants or extremists. But one of the major reasons of frustration among jawans is related to leaves,” counter-terrorism analyst Anil Kamboj told Firstpost.
The Narayanpur incident is a case in point. The ITBP jawan Masudul Rahman, a resident of Nadia district in West Bengal reportedly didn’t take any leave throughout the year, as he planned to avail it at the end of December. He had informed his superiors about his leave plan well in advance.
“Masudul Rahman wanted a leave during the end of December, as he had some domestic work and functions lined up for that period. Probably it was related to his marriage. He had applied for this leave long back. But on 4 December morning, his superior apparently told Rahman that his leave had been sanctioned from Wednesday instead of at the end of December. After that he had some altercations with some colleagues when he went back to his camp, after depositing his service rifle,” a source said.
Rahman picked up AK-47 of one of his colleagues and started firing on his fellowmen that killed five including two head constables. After that, he reportedly shot himself.
According to a few retired CAPF officials, in a large number of cases, it has been found that senior officers or commanding officers don’t pay heed to leave requests of jawans. Despite promising leave — which is the right of a jawan —, one is denied leave at the last moment. Reasons may be any. Such cases have brewed severe frustration in the lower ranks of the force.
“In this incident, priority should have been given to Rahman while sanctioning leave, as he had informed his superiors well in advance and due to which he didn’t take any leave throughout the year. From this incident, it appears Rahman’s superior officer didn’t bother to pay attention to his request. This creates immense frustration in the applicant, which leads to depression. Such circumstances compel one to take the extreme step,” said Kamboj, who besides operating in major conflict zones including Bastar, had been an instructor at premier training institutes of Border Security Force.
According to a retired Central Reserve Police Force official, leave plan in the CAPF for the entire year is prepared at the beginning of the year. The company commandant sanctions leave as per the availability of leaves and strength of the staff available at the location. In case the commandant fails to provide leave, it’s compensated later.
“Leave is a major issue for CAPF personnel as they look forward to going home eagerly, after a long stretch of working for months, sometimes even an entire year, under a lot of pressure. Unlike in other jobs, getting leave is tough in CAPF especially for those who’re posted in conflict areas. Shortage of staff adds to it. This is one of the main causes of suicide among forces,” the retired CRPF official said.
“In many cases, senior officers don’t listen to the problems of their subordinates and this leads to grievance, which remains unaddressed for a long period of time and results in an explosion. Mental health is a major issue — whether in paramilitary or armed forces, which is often due to poor administration,” said Kamboj.
The Ministry of Home Affairs says the reason for the suicides is because of occupational hazards such as long and continuous tenures of deployment. According to the ministry, personnel also struggle with family issues, domestic problems, marital discord and financial problems.
The inability to withstand stress by an individual is also one of the reasons for the higher number of suicides.
The death of security personnel in Naxal-sensitive Bastar is not only due to Maoist ambush but also due to suicide and fratricide, which is on the rise.
The Narayanpur incident happened just two days after the report of the judicial enquiry commission on Sarkeguda encounter case (2012) was tabled in Chhattisgarh assembly. The report has indicted CRPF of killing 17 innocent villagers, including six minors in the name of Maoist encounter.
In the report, justice VK Agarwal has suggested CRPF (and to other forces as well) that training should be imparted to security forces to improve mental fabric, with a view to make them more balanced, so that they do not succumb to panic reaction even in a critical situation. Mutual confidence-building has also been stressed in the report.
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Updated Date: Dec 06, 2019 10:41:50 IST