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CRPF chief speaks up on handling Kashmir crisis

Last updated on: September 13, 2010 13:32 IST

CRPF chief speaks up on handling Kashmir crisis

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With the Central Reserve Police Force beset with challenges in Jammu & Kashmir, its director-general Vikram Srivastava tells Gyan Verma the steps the force is taking to manage the crisis

Nearly 70 people have died in three months in Jammu and Kashmir in stone-pelters' clashes with the state police and the CRPF. Do you think some decisions could have been taken to avoid these deaths?

It is very unfortunate that innocent lives have been lost during these riotous incidents, where a large number of personnel of the Jammu and Kashmir police and the CRPF have also been injured. I do hope, in the coming days, complete normalcy would return in the Kashmir Valley and educational institutions would resume work. I also hope that commercial and business establishments would start functioning at the earliest.

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Image: CRPF personnel during a passing out parade in Humhama, on the outskirts of Srinagar
Photographs: Fayaz Kabli/Reuters
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'Good hygienic food can be a great morale booster'

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How do you feel when you look back and analyse these clashes that are being reported every day now?

The state police and the security forces are trying their best to ensure that clashes do not happen and there is lasting peace and harmony in the valley. Like every state police, we also work towards maintaining public order and peace in the region.

This year, over 1,050 CRPF personnel have been injured during the clashes with local residents. With so many injuries, doesn't it affect the morale of the force?

The men are led by officers who also talk to them at regular intervals. It is important that the personnel act as a cohesive team while deployed for long hours on law and order duties. To maintain morale, we have to take immediate care of our personnel who get injured. 

We also have to ensure that, while they are deployed for long periods, they are provided with hygienic food in time. It is extremely important that our men get adequate rest for at least one day in a week. We have realised that good hygienic food, provided on time, can be a great morale booster for security men who are posted at a place for long hours.  

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Image: Kashmiri protestors clash with security personnel in Srinagar
Photographs: Fayaz Kabli / Reuters
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'We are trying to reduce reduce stress levels'

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Any other efforts for stress management of forces in J&K and other areas where your personnel are deployed?

We are organising counselling sessions for our jawans by professionals for stress management and life management. We have also introduced Art of Good Living courses for the well-being of our personnel. They have also been introduced to meditation, which helps reduce stress levels. The government has also sanctioned 300 digital satellite phone terminal phones for our companies located in remote areas. This will provide good connectivity not only for professional use but also enable the men to talk to their families. Families can stay in touch and be assured of the jawans' well being.

We are also organising counseling sessions for the wives and children of our jawans and widows of our martyrs. The CRPF Wives Welfare Association is heading this initiative. We have introduced health cards for the personnel and their families, wherein all details pertaining to their medical profile, treatment given, preventive medication, as well as record of annual medical check-up are being maintained and computerised. We think this will also reduce stress levels.

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Image: Kashmiri protesters throw stones towards the police during a protest in Srinagar
Photographs: Fayaz Kabli/Reuters
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'There are options like pepper guns, chili grenades'

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The government plans to introduce non-lethal weapons for mob control, so that there are no casualties during riotous situations. What is your opinion?

We have various non-lethal weapons and we are also equipping our force with more non-lethal gadgets and arms to control rioters effectively while reducing the number of casualties. These non-lethal weapons are not only meant to control rioters in J&K, but our forces would use these in other parts of the country as well, wherever they are deployed to control law and order situations.

There are options like pepper guns, chili grenades, 20-ft iron walls that are made available to security men to handle such situations. It will help reduce casualties during violent mob action.

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Image: Street graffiti in Srinagar
Photographs: Fayaz Kabli/Reuters
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'We are not part of terror investigations'

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Any other efforts?

We have also procured anti-riot gear and provided these to our forces in J&K. These provide effective protection to face, head and other vital areas of the body. These are helping us reduce injuries on our side while dealing with the situation. We are in the process of procuring more of such equipment.

Do you feel that these clashes are part of a bigger conspiracy in Kashmir and it may be a new form of attack on security personnel? There are reports that former militants are involved.

This aspect is being investigated by the J&K police and the authorities. We are not part of the investigations. Our main job is to provide assistance and back-up to the state police.

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Image: Soldiers patrol a curfew-bound locality
Photographs: Fayaz Kabli/Reuters
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'Riots are a law and order problem'

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So, is it not terrorist activity?

Riotous incidents are a law and order problem. And, we are doing our best to assist the state police in solving that. 

There have been at least 10 instances when grenades have been thrown on security personnel or they have been shot at during clashes.

All these incidents are being investigated by the J&K police and details would be known to us after they complete their investigations. There are instances where some of our vehicles have been set on fire and badly damaged. These incidents are also part of the investigations.

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Image: A policeman confronts a stone throwing Kashmiri protester in Srinagar,
Photographs: Fayaz Kabli/Reuters
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'I have discussed the situation with senior officers'

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During your recent visit to the valley, you had asked the Jammu and Kashmir government and the state police to ensure the presence of district authorities where your men are posted for law and order duty. How do you plan to handle these situations in future?

I have met the senior police officers and other authorities in J&K as well and discussed with them various matters concerning the deployment of the force while they perform law and order duties. We have also assured all assistance that would be required by them in handling these clashes.

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Image: A Kashmiri woman confronts the police during protests in Srinagar
Photographs: Fayaz Kabli/Reuters
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