Over 200 women from Bastar, Chhattisgarh, are breaking ground in Adhoc Training School (ATS) Ambikapur some 350 kms from capital Raipur.
Aged between 20-25 years these gritty women are part of 556 men and women belonging to the backward Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST), training to be inducted as special operation’s group, which the CRPF plans to unleash onto the Naxals as part of its strategy.
Nirmala (name changed), 21, who belongs to a village 20 kms from Bilaspur, has trained hard to avenge the killers of her family. Three of her family members were killed by Naxals in less than a year. Her father was killed last year by Naxals on suspicion of being a police informer. She was staying in the hostel when the killings took place.
Despite her mother’s apprehension to join the force, she went ahead with the decision. However, few weeks ago Niramala lost her brother as a consequence to her decision. Her brother was brutally murdered by Naxals.
Nirmala has almost reached the completion of her course.
“I joined the force. This is my freedom (from naxals). After the killings I wanted to join CRPF,though my mother pleaded me not to. If I get the opportunity I will avenge the killing,” Nirmala told India Today holding back her tears of anger and frustration.
Like Nirmala, two other girls (name withheld owing to threats) are the sole bread winners of their family.
“Poverty and unemployment made us join the force. Our standard of living has improved. We have two brothers who are unemployed. But both of us are breadwinners now,” one of them said.
A brother-sister duo were also seen training separately as part of the Bastariya Battalion.
“Women, I realised, are important contributors. They are there for keeping a check on Naxal women who raid villages. So, when I decided to join the CRPF, my sister, who I wanted to marry off, insisted to join. Now both of us are there. I get worried for her,” said the brother adding that he also worries for her safety.
The tribal men and women in the force are from Bijapur, Sukhma, Dantewada and Jagdalpur – the four most naxal-affected districts. Besides being short and thin, the women were feeble and anemic a year ago.
Once CRPF field officers went out to these districts to convince some of them to join the force, at least 200 women mustered courage. They were trained and given nutritious food.
The appetite of women improved over the course. They gained strength from a diet comprising of fresh cheese and milk. Today these women stand as a sea of change.
“We will challenge the Naxals. We are physically and mentally prepared to take them on. We will chase them out like dogs. They have stalled development,” said two trainees of the Bastariya Battalion.
The women who barely had the strength to perform such tough tasks now aim to fire and bring down their enemy. They have aced the combat and non-combat methodology of the force, can slither down ropes and helicopter, perform strength training on beams, do push ups, run 35 kms with 20 kg weight.
“As part of the initiative taken by MHA and completed by the CRPF, in 2016 men and women were taken from the four Naxal affected districts for training. In these regions, people have seen women with weapon as Naxals, this is for the first time that they will see their own women in security force. This will be a game changer. A big message for the people of Bastar,” said HK Singh, Commandant, 241 Battalion, CRPF.
The MHA had relaxed the standard for height, chest weight and criteria for education was kept as minimum as Class 10 to attract more youths.
In a month’s time, they will pass out as constables to take on the Naxals in their homeland. For now these women relish their freedom to break the shackles and move ahead.
Source: India today