Aizawl, Aug. 22: A group of 29 constables of an India Reserve Battalion (IRB) from Mizoram deserted their barracks midway through a training stint at the Vairengte Counter Insurgency & Jungle Warfare School, allegedly because they were scared of fighting Maoists in Chhattisgarh.
The deserters were part of a 673-member contingent being specifically trained at the counter-insurgency school for a stint in Chhattisgarh, where nine IRB personnel from Nagaland died in a landmine explosion on February 6. Sources said the constables had been grumbling about not being paid travelling and dearness allowances in advance and walked out in a huff last night.
However, an officer involved in training the personnel dismissed it as an excuse. “The main reason is their fear of facing the Maoists,” he said.
The 29 constables, all of them allegedly drunk, trooped out of their camp at Lailapur around 9 pm and forced their way through the Vairengte police checkpoint. Some of the deserters were involved in a scuffle with their seniors before stomping out, a source said.
The entire group is believed to be hiding somewhere along Mizoram’s border with Assam. Of the 29 constables, 3 are from the Delta Company and the rest from the Charlie Company of the 2nd Mizoram IRB. The Union home ministry requisitioned their services earlier this month.
Officers at the counter-insurgency school, which has even hosted US Marines, said some of the IRB personnel gave them a hard time in the first few days of training. But IRB deputy commandant Lalthafamkima claimed the majority of the personnel had fallen into a groove and would be physically and mentally ready for deployment soon. “We have made great progress and hope to have the trainees fit before they leave,” he said.
The Mizoram government had faced criticism for agreeing to deploy an IRB unit in Chhattisgarh. Experts argued that personnel drawn from the state police force were not trained to fight Maoists, forcing the IRB to turn to the counter-insurgency school for help.
The training school at Vairengte, in northern Mizoram, does not have facilities to house over 600 trainees at one time, which is why the 2nd IRB set up a mess at Lailapur. The trainees reportedly asked for allowances in advance to pay the mess fees.