Bastar women pick up guns against Naxals

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 22 May 2018 09:02:21


By Tikeshwar Patel,

Ambikapur (C’garh),

FROM overcoming poverty to serving the nation, the young recruits, including women, of the Central Reserve Police Force’s (CRPF) “Bastariya” battalion had their reasons for joining the specialised unit, which was commissioned into service today.

The battalion, numbered 241, is named “Bastariya” as its members are from the Bastar region in southern Chhattisgarh, bordering Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Telangana. The recruits include married couples and a brother-sister duo.

Bijapur, one of the worst insurgency-hit districts in Chhattisgarh, has sent the maximum of 163 tribal youths, including 60 women, to the special battalion, which was commissioned into service by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh at a function here.

The 534 troopers, including 189 women, were selected from Bijapur, Dantewada, Narayanpur and Sukma districts, which are battling Maoist insurgency.
The specialised unit, raised to take on the Naxals in the forests, is expected to be deployed in south Bastar by next month, according to CRPF officials.

Sporting their crisp uniforms, a young married couple, who are among the recruits, said they were thrilled about the new assignment.

“I was working as a labourer at the Ayurvedic hospital in Tumnar village, where I hardly earned Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000 a year. I got married in 2013 and have been in dire need of money since then to sustain my family,” the husband, a 28-year-old commando, told PTI at the CRPF training centre in Ambikapur, after he and his wife were commissioned into service during the passing-out parade.

The couple from a remote village in Bijapur district said they had never imagined they would be donning a uniform and fighting for the cause of their motherland.“I want to bring those misguided Naxals back into the mainstream. They are misguided and wandering inside the forest without any purpose,” the 23-year-old wife said. She expressed the hope that the ultras might be encouraged to quit their movement after seeing tribals joining the new battalion.

“I and several others like me have joined the CRPF. We hope that by seeing us, the Naxals would think of quitting Naxalism and join the mainstream to earn a livelihood and lead a normal life,” she said. The couple has a three-year-old daughter, who is currently living with their relatives in Bijapur town. Asked about her daughter, the woman turned emotional and said, “I have left behind my child not only to earn a livelihood, but also to serve my motherland.” The troopers of the battalion underwent a specialised 44-week training at ATC Bilaspur and ATC Ambikapur. Sharing their experience, the couple said they were trained in shooting, weapons handling, swimming, rowing, rock climbing, IED detection, and jungle warfare. “Though we are used to the inhospitable terrain and dense forests of Bastar as we have been living there, the jungle warfare training was something different,” the husband added. Among the other members of the battalion are at least four married couples and a brother-sister duo.

A 24-year-old woman trooper was reluctant to talk to the media, saying her family in Bijapur had already been facing trouble from Naxals. Speaking on the assurance that her identity would not be revealed, she said, “My family had shifted to Bijapur town from our village, located deep inside the forest. However, my father had been visiting the village for agricultural work as we have a small farmland there. “When my brother and I joined the CRPF, the Naxals banned my father’s entry into the village, saying if he wanted to continue farming, he should ask us to quit the force.”