A day after its eight personnel were killed in a militant attack in Pampore, CRPF has shifted about half-a-dozen of its heavy-armoured mine protected vehicles (MPVs), which were earlier used for anti-Naxal operations, to Kashmir Valley to effectively secure its troops deployed there.
The paramilitary had cut down the use of these vehicles for anti-Naxal operations drastically to a “bare minimum” after they were targeted in IED blasts in the Left Wing Extremism-hit areas.
The CRPF feels that these MPVs will now come in handy in view of its increased role in Jammu and Kashmir to open and secure roads for movement of paramilitary, defence and VIP convoys and a rise in the number of militant ambushes. “We have shifted some of our MPVs from Left Wing Extremism (LWE)-hit areas to the Kashmir valley to effectively secure our men during convoy movements and road opening tasks. The MPVs are ready for deployment for operations in Kashmir. If need arises, we could bring in more,” CRPF Director General K Durga Prasad told .
He said the MPVs, it is envisaged, will provide better protection in case of a militant ambush and firing on the troops, similar to what was seen yesterday in Pampore. Two militants had opened fired on a Central Reserve Police Force bus, killing eight men and injuring two dozen of them while they were moving towards Srinagar in a convoy after a firing practice.
The CRPF chief said the force has also ordered 20 brand new modern MPVs from the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) that will be deployed in some of the most difficult Maoist-violence hit areas. The modern MPVs will ensure better protection to the troops in LWE areas as compared to the older ones which were used very sparingly now, he noted.
The operational dynamics in the LWE operations grid and counter-terrorist theatre in Jammu and Kashmir are different. So, the requirement of MPVs in these areas is different and it is good that the CRPF already had such mine-protected vehicles which are also bullet-proof and can be used in Kashmir Valley, the DG said.
A few years ago, the paramilitary force had rolled back and stationed over 50 such troop-carrying vehicles in its camps in various LWE-affected states. Even former CRPF chief Prakash Mishra had said the force was “not keen (to use MPVs) at all in LWE areas but may be we need them in Kashmir for road-opening duties”. “They (MPVs) are not being used at all (in Naxal-hit areas) except for very acute emergency like evacuation of casualties, but with helicopters around they have a very limited role now,” he had said.
Patrol parties in the Maoist-affected areas of the country have been strictly asked to move on foot or use motorbikes in order to avoid casualties caused by hidden improvised explosive devices and land mines, which even targeted the MPVs inflicting heavy damage. A senior CRPF official explained the task of road opening and safe convoy movement in Jammu and Kashmir.
“We are giving more impetus to road opening and sanitisation tasks. This does not work in isolation as it needs corridor protection and both flanks of a road have to be covered. Hence, we need men to cover flanks. “Initially, the army was doing it (road opening) but now that they are not doing it, CRPF had come out of static duties in numerous instances in the Kashmir Valley to protect its men who do the road opening task,” he said.
There have been numerous incidents in the past when militants have attacked CRPF road opening parties or convoys, taking advantage of their linear presence on a long track in the Valley as in Pampore yesterday. The force has about 60 battalions in Jammu and Kashmir for security duty. Each battalion has about 1,000 personnel.
In the LWE grid, IED blasts accounted for about 70 per cent causalities in the lead anti-Naxal operations force till some years ago. Given the limited role of MPVs in protecting its men in these areas from IED blasts, the force had virtually stopped using them. These heavy armoured carriers, when blown up or toppled in an IED blast, caused massive shock leading to greater casualties.
CRPF subsequently went on to procure thousands of motor bikes for troops to patrol in LWE-affected states even as strict instructions have been issued to follow the foot patrol method for maximum number of operations in the heavily forested areas in these states.