New Delhi, June 20: The Central Reserve Police Force will take over security and anti-insurgency operations in Srinagar by November despite murmurs that it may not have the expertise of the Border Security Force.
Top CRPF officials scoffed at the idea that the force, whose personnel will shortly begin orientation courses to prepare for duty in Srinagar, is not equipped to handle anti-insurgency operations. The BSF has been in the forefront in the fight against militants in the state.
“As the oldest paramilitary force in the country, we have a long history of fighting insurgency, we were in the Northeast fighting insurgency together with the army, long before others were on the scene,” said a senior official.
The force was raised in 1939 as the Crown Representative Police and changed its name to CRPF after Independence.
CRPF officials said the BSF was primarily designed to guard the nation’s frontiers. However, in Kashmir, the BSF together with the army has been in the forefront of anti-terrorist action, a job they were not raised to do.
The CRPF’s mandate was better suited to deal with civilian problems, officials said. It was raised to handle internal disturbances and control crowds and impose curfew in tense situations triggered by communal disturbances, political upheavals or other internal issues. Its duties ranged from maintaining law and order, countering militancy and anti-terrorism operations.
The CRPF’s record in the Northeast and Kashmir was much better than other paramilitary forces, officials claimed. This was because it was trained to control crowds and interact with civilians. The force was also trained to use minimum force and were not trigger-happy even in insurgency areas, the officials said.
The Centre believes that, with the CRPF taking over anti-militancy duties in Kashmir, the BSF will be able to get back to its original duty of guarding the borders.
Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani is keen that the BSF focus solely on guarding the borders to stop infiltration not just in Kashmir but also along the international boundary in the east, which is being increasingly used by militants to cross into the country and attack targets in the heartland.
The home ministry believes that half the battle is won if the borders are guarded as this will make the task of maintaining internal security that much easier.
The BSF director-general has pointed out in an internal presentation to the ministry that all 22 reserve battalions of the force are currently deployed. He stressed that “overstretching of the force was adversely affecting its operational efficiency”.
Keeping this in mind, the Centre has decided to gradually let the CRPF take over the BSF’s duties in Kashmir.
The switch will take at least a year to complete. Much will also depend on how the CRPF performs in Srinagar after taking over, but the force is confident it can discharge its duties efficiently.