India Reserve Battalion jawans intercept a helmet-less biker in Bistupur on Monday. Picture by Animesh Sengupta
Paramilitary personnel, specially trained in anti-Maoist operations, were reduced to mere traffic monitors on Jamshedpur’s roads on Monday.
At least eight jawans and two officers of the India Reserve Battalion (IRB), deployed for the April 17 polling, were spotted checking bikers for helmets and directing offenders to an ASI for prosecution in what appeared to be a complete mockery of security protocol.
The force was expected to head back to Chatra after the Jamshedpur parliamentary seat went to polls last Thursday. But, the orders of a police inspector seemed to have held them up. Hence, armed with sophisticated assault rifles, the men in military fatigue were seen waving helmet-less bikers to a stop in Bistupur from 10am till 2pm.
ASI Vikram Mahto, under whom the paramilitary force was working, stood near the Voltas Building roundabout and slapped spot fines on 16 bikers. “I am just following instructions of my superior (Bistupur OC). A fine of Rs 300 was imposed on each offender,” he said.
Bistupur OC Jitendra Kumar was the only one who seemed to be in the know. “Yeh kono bideshi force hai? Yeh Bharatiya ardh-sainik bal hai. Thoda sa kaam karwa liya toh kya hua. Aakhir area ka law and order aur tandurst hoga (Is it a foreign force? This is our country’s paramilitary force. What harm is done if they do some good work. After all, they are helping to improve the law and order situation),” inspector Kumar said.
Surprisingly, DSP (traffic) Rakesh Mohan Sinha conceded ignorance. “Such crackdowns happen under my jurisdiction. However, I am not aware of any drive in Bistupur, which is being conducted with the help of IRB jawans,” he told The Telegraph. City SP Karthik S. echoed Sinha. “I am not aware of any such campaign involving the paramilitary force. Let me check,” he said.
Strangely again, IG Anurag Gupta, who is also the state police spokesperson, avoided a straight answer. “Maybe, the helmet-checking drive is a part of an anti-Naxalite operation,” he said. East Singhbhum SSP Amol V. Homkar attempted a face-saver. “We took IRB help since our men are away on election duty in other districts,” he said, claiming that it was not breach of protocol.
The IRB, however, refused to buy the district top cop’s version.
“We are trained in guerrilla tactics. We combat rebels in forests. We are not accustomed to carrying out helmet-checking drives. Moreover, we are exhausted after election duty,” said a jawan who hails from Manipur. He added that the battalion had been officially released from Jamshedpur.
Additional chief electoral officer K.K. Soan said there was nothing wrong in using the force to ensure peaceful elections.
“The EC is the deployment authority. Paramilitary jawans can be used for any security mission, including helmet-checking or area domination exercise, as long as the purpose is free and fair polling,” he added.
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