The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cause suicide squad, goal army

Vasat (Thane), Nov. 15: Rohit Deshpande is a recruit of Hindustan Atma Ghataki Pathak (Hindustan Suicide Squad) — an organisation that has sprung up to train suicide squads of youths from the majority community.

He has enrolled for a crash course that asks him to put his life in the service of the country and “trains” him to fight corruption, anti-nationals and Pakistan. All in 15 days.

Rohit is from “a middle class family that needs his father’s job to make ends meet”. For himself, he says, hope shining in his eyes, “If I am able to join the army as a soldier I will be happy.”

But is he willing to infiltrate into Pakistan as part of a suicide squad' “No,” says Rohit, startled. “I came here to prepare myself for the army, not to be a terrorist. If I go to Pakistan and do what the Lashkar-e-Toiba is doing in India, I, too, will be a terrorist, will I not'”

Other recruits, lying on hard beds in the “barrack” at Colonel (retd) Jayant Chitale’s (picture on Page 8) training camp, nod their heads vigorously in agreement. “I came here after reading an advertisement in a local paper on August 19,” says Rohit. “The advertisement promised to make me confident and to make me good enough to join the army. I don’t know anything about this suicide squad.”

But Chitale does. The retired armyman, who was arrested today, says with conviction that “these boys will be ready to become Hindustani suicide squads after five days at my camp.”

Chitale says he has been “inspired” by Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, who had warned of forming such suicide squads. Rumours are rife that he is eyeing a party ticket for the Assembly polls. The Sena has dissociated itself from his outfit, though.

“My idea of a suicide squad is not men who will tie themselves with bombs and blow Pakistani targets,” Chitale says, adding he wants to create a force that will help the army tackle terrorism and “do unto Pakistan what Pakistan does to India”.

He has written letters to the Prime Minister, the home minister, the chief of army staff and the chief minister, seeking permission to “help the country”. All have sent back polite letters that say they respect his patriotism, but no thank you.

The retired armyman calls himself “Dictator Chitale” and charges his students — mostly unsuspecting youths from poor and lower middle homes — Rs 1,500 for a 15-day course. “My students take a two-point pledge before the course,” he says. “They pledge to fight internal corruption, goondagiri and anti-national forces in the country. They also vow to enlist themselves for a super commando course that will train them to initiate a war of terrorism against Pakistan. But that is the second stage.”

All the recruits are given to handle are dummy swords and .22 air guns. Their instructor, Ravi Sarwadkar, is an NCC cadet who could not make it to the army thrice.

Chitale, who has seen two wars and runs a military training academy in Pune, dreams of building a Hindustani — not Hindu, he corrects — suicide squad. There is a small problem, though. None of his students is willing to join a suicide squad. They just want to be in the army.

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