September 30, 2022

Policing the Army – Part II

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

Part I of this series had described why the Army did not want non-lethal weapons (NLWs), crowd control being the task of police, not of the Army. It also brought out how the police and Army functions are being mixed up by successive politico-bureaucratic dispensations for personal insecurity against exposure and the vote-bank calculations. For most of our politicians the Army is nothing more than a necessary evil to be eulogized in run up to elections but ignored and dumped otherwise. 

As for bureaucrats and their ‘upper’ category (diplomats), less said the better. Few years ago during a seminar at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration at Mussoorie, Major General Ian Cardozo who had chopped off his own leg in battle, noting the diatribe against the Indian military by former diplomat TCA Raghavan asked him, “Do you hate us?” His immediate response was, “Of course we do. Don’t you know it?” Raghavan served as High Commissioner at Islamabad for two years, possibly adores the Pakistani military and could be on ISI payroll; considering few months ago Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy tweeted that some of the bureaucrats in our Ministry of Defence (MoD) have been honey-trapped by the ISI.

On September 5, 2021, news emerged that a batch of Indian Army personnel was being trained along with ‘paramilitary’ forces in “public order and crowd management” at the Rapid Action Force (RAF) Academy for Public Order (RAPO) before moving on a UN peacekeeping assignment in Sudan. This news was posted on the website of the Indian Defence Research Wing (IDRW). RAPO has instructors from RAF and the Central Reserve Police Forces (CRPF). RAPO received formal approval by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in November 2019 with sanctioned strength of 201 personnel and a DIG rank police officer as head of the institute.

The information perhaps was passed on to IDRW by a bureaucrat who doesn’t know the difference between paramilitary forces (PMF) and Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF). This is not surprising given that Ajay Kumar, Defence Secretary still doesn’t know the difference between the Corps of Engineers and Military Engineering Service (MES) despite serving in the MoD since November 2017 to August 2019 as Secretary Defence Production and thereafter as Defence Secretary. Recall Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw had once remarked that some of our bureaucrats can’t differentiate between a gorilla and a guerilla.

For the unaware, PMF are those officered by army officers – like the Assam Rifles. Others including the RAF and CRPF are CAPF.  More than 2,00,000 Indians have served in 49 of the 71 UN peacekeeping missions established globally since 1948 but never in the seven decades plus was the need felt for the Army to train under the police for public order and crowd management. Perhaps MHA would want to institutionalise Army units proceeding on UN missions to henceforth go through RAPO training, the reasons for which are not difficult to fathom. Some bureaucrats (on payroll of foreign agencies) have always been rooting for the Army and police forces to have common training facilities.

More than 2,00,000 Indians have served in 49 of the 71 UN peacekeeping missions established globally since 1948 but never in the seven decades plus was the need felt for the Army to train under the police for public order and crowd management. Perhaps MHA would want to institutionalise Army units proceeding on UN missions to henceforth go through RAPO training, the reasons for which are not difficult to fathom. Some bureaucrats (on payroll of foreign agencies) have always been rooting for the Army and police forces to have common training facilities.

The IDRW report says RAPO never had Army personnel within its campus for training except for a brief programme in 2019. This is not surprising since the then Army Chief General Bipin Rawat first time including an IPS officer of SSP/SP rank as ADG (HR) under the Vice Chief of Army Staff as part of reorganisation of Army Headquarters in March 2019 – as if Army has been incapable of handling human rights issues all these decades. No wonder many remarked on social media that this was part of Rawat’s design to please the politico-bureaucratic dispensation and climb the ladder to become the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).

Many may not know how Dhanna Seth continued to make money no matter where Akbar positioned him thinking he could not; like overseeing upkeep of royal horses, even counting sea waves from the shore and the like. But none of this could stop Dhanna making money. Similarly, some will continue to extract their pound of flesh for personal enhancement at cost of the military from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s slogan of ‘Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas’.

If MHA is really serious about joint training then instead of the gimmickry at RAPO, it could follow the example of Indonesia. Immediately post the 26/11 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, Indonesia conducted a three-day nationwide counterterrorist exercise incorporating the military and all other security forces. The terrorist threat in India is rising. Some 3,000 kgs of heroin worth Rs. 21,000 crore from Afghanistan was recently seized at the Mundra port in Gujarat’s Kutch district (ISI operation which certainly is not the first) the tmerror threat is rising. Narcotic smuggling in any case is not possible without the politician-police-mafia nexus that MHA and Gujarat government need to look into.

To deal with mounting terror threats, MHA should be organising counterterrorist exercises involving the entire security sector. The excise according to inner sources is this would scare the populace. But the actual reason could be nonchalance or fear of exposing incompetence in executing such a national level exercise. The infiltration and cattle trade across the India-Bangladesh border any way is happening with BSF manning the border directly under the MHA. And narcotics coming in through our eastern border are almost equal to that being smuggled in from the west. 

What does RAPO teach the Army about crowd control that the Army does not know? Besides, look at the manner in which the Shaheen Bagh protests in Delhi was allowed for 100 days despite causing major public inconvenience and eventually CAPF were called in who were caught on camera smashing CCTV cameras for dubious reasons. It has been witnessed many times that public order and crowd management in India is afflicted with dirty politics – something well known and perhaps orchestrated by the MHA whenever CAPF or Delhi Police are employed which MHA directly controls. 

On September 26, the Home Minister chaired a meeting of 10 Chief Ministers of states affected by the Maoist insurgency. The good news is that number of persons killed has gone down albeit this could be temporary lull with COVID-19 hitting Maoists. But MHA must take stock of the quantum of CAPF employed in these states with higher leadership consigned to IPS officers and their casualty rate vis-à-vis Maoists, not counting civilians killed in retribution. Chhattisgarh alone cumulatively has some 65 battalions of CAPF deployed on an average (equivalent of over five and a half Army Divisions) which goes up to 135 CAPF battalions during elections.

MHA must take stock of the quantum of CAPF employed in these states with higher leadership consigned to IPS officers and their casualty rate vis-à-vis Maoists, not counting civilians killed in retribution. Chhattisgarh alone cumulatively has some 65 battalions of CAPF deployed on an average (equivalent of over five and a half Army Divisions) which goes up to 135 CAPF battalions during elections.

Almost all encounters in the Maoist belt where the CAPF suffered large number of casualties have been because of faulty orders given by senior IPS officers in-charge in the area; IPS officers are adept in law and order but sans experience of counter-insurgency. Moreover, battalion/company commanders are noticeably ‘not’ accompanying the rank and file in operations. However, MHA remains least concerned or rather scared of reducing the IPS hierarchy in the CAPF?   

What a shame that the project for constructing over 40 integrated Border Outposts (BOPs) announced by the Centre in 2015 and the first BOP built for the ITBP at Lukung in Eastern Ladakh has been declared a failure after spending about Rs. 20 crore. These BOPs were to have freeze-proof toilets, running water and temperature always maintained above 22 degree Celsius. Can MHA clean this mess six years after 40 BOPs were announced and the Chinese aggression of last year?

Our policy makers and the Army hierarchy need to seriously introspect and examine these issues.

The author is a veteran of Indian Army. Views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of https://strategicaffairsindia.in

To be continued….

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