Assistant Commandant GP Singh of CRPF has written a letter to the Army Chief, expressing his ‘annoyance’ at the latter’s remarks in the aftermath of the Dantewala massacre. As per an item in the Pioneer newspaper, the officer citing limited success of several joint operations of the Army and CRPF in Punjab, J&K, North East and Sri Lanka, opines that such failures are not due to training deficiencies, but other reasons. He talks about the Chief’s remarks ‘disturbing his inner soul’. He goes on to say that “every organisation has merits and deficiencies.”
A positive view of the emotional outpouring of the officer is that such feeling of loyalty and ‘josh’ for one’s outfit is an extremely good sign. Pride for one’s unit and organisation is a prime attribute that one would look for in junior leaders of a fighting force. He has also displayed a degree of audacity – another quality sought after in such leaders – in violating the norms and channels through this missive, as also having the moral courage to sign it with his name rather than sending it anonymously. One hopes that for these reasons, his indiscretions will not invite more than a rap on the knuckles by his superiors for what is probably a misdirected display of loyalty.
The disturbing part of this newspaper report, however, are the statements that the letter has “touched a chord with the CRPF rank and file” and “majority of the CRPF officials agrees with the assistant commandant”. As per the news item, the chief’s statement has had a “demoralising effect on the force”. This can have two interpretations – that either they do not agree with the Chief’s assessment that ‘internal deficiencies’ exist, or that while they agree that deficiencies exist, the Army Chief has no business to talk about them. The latter has already been talked about at length in a previous Blogitorial entitled ‘Silence of the Lambs’. So what about the internal deficiencies?
A number of newspaper reports based on interactions with CRPF men on the ground tell tales of glaring apathy by the government and the force’s own hierarchy towards the troops deployed to tackle what is termed as the ‘biggest internal security threat’. “Why are we being tortured” is one such report from Times of India. The reporter in question visited the CRPF camp at the site of the massacre, and has been receiving calls from the CRPF men there since. “…being posted in Dantewada is worse than getting killed by Maoists. We have to walk 50 km to buy something as trivial as a matchbox. There is no gas cylinder for us to cook food—we have to pick firewood. Does the government even bother about us?” one soldier told the reporter. “We have no water, no proper food, no medicines—why are we being tortured like criminals? Please get our voices heard in Parliament. You are a journalist after all,” was another plea. Obviously, the troops in question have bigger reasons to be demoralised than remarks of the Army Chief about internal deficiencies within their force – even if they did have access to a newspaper, or the time to worry about such distant events.
Report of the enquiry conducted by a former DG of the BSF into the Dantewala massacre has been submitted to the government. While it has not been made public as yet, newspapers say that the report indicates ‘leadership failure’ and lack of coordination between the force and local police were the major causes.
If the remarks made by the Army Chief have disturbed the inner soul of the Assistant Commandant in question, and possibly that of a large number of his brother officers, one wonders what effects reports about such apathy and deficiencies would have on them. There is a lot of truth in his assertion that every organisation has its merits and deficiencies. But it is also true that acknowledging these deficiencies does not mean that the organisation itself is being castigated. In fact, accepting any such shortcomings and taking assertive action to overcome them is what actually contributes to its strengthening. The Army itself has been guilty of attempting to brush a number of infirmities under the carpet or trying to ignore them. But in a larger number of cases, it has proved itself capable of acknowledging mistakes and taking corrective action – the latest instance being the removal of two COs in the valley for failure to prevent human rights violations.
For a force to be reckoned as a truly professional outfit, it is necessary for it to be ruthless in introspecting on its own shortcomings and dealing with them positively. This is a lesson that needs to be learnt urgently by forces involved in anti naxal operations and other internal security duties to ensure incidents like Dantewada are not repeated.