By being at the vanguard of peacekeeping of the nation for over 81 years now, the CRPF is adorned with a number of feathers in its cap. Initiated as a small police unit way back in 1939 to maintain law and order in the erstwhile princely States, the CRPF has established itself as the single largest prime mover of internal security of the country.
With 246 battalions, it is today the largest para-military force in the world. Over the years, it has proved itself as a trailblazer in ultimate bravery and sacrifice, the telltale proof of which lies in its being invested with 1,976 gallantry medals — the highest tally among all the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) in the country. Its jungle warfare elite force CoBRA, anti-riot Rapid Action Force (RAF) and the Institute of IED Management (IIM), Pune, are unique and first of their kind in the country — making it a pioneer in intelligent and integrated policing.
On February 6, 1986, the CRPF added a new feather in its cap when it raised the first ‘Mahila’ battalion at Jharoda Kalan, Delhi. It was not only the first in the CRPF but also the world’s first women battalion. It was this battalion that formed a crucial part of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) deployed in war-torn Sri Lanka to restore peace. The gender-sensitive profile of the Force got a further fillip on January 20, 2007, when an all-women formed contingent of the CRPF was sent to Liberia under the UN Peacekeeping Mission. Earlier in 1989, seven women were appointed in the officer rank in the Force for the first time.
The CRPF has earmarked a sizable space for women in the form of six ‘Mahila’ battalions and also in the 15 RAF battalions. The 241 Bn that was raised in 2017 as the ‘Bastariya Battalion’ made provisions for the intake of 33% women. They have since been deployed in the Left Wing Extremism (LWE) areas and are proving their battle mettle.
The women personnel of the CRPF have proved their fighting spirit in grappling with terrorism and the menace of Maoism. In 1990, women were deployed in the northeast region to fight insurgency shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. Many women of the Force are also now actively engaging in the anti-national elements in conflict zones like Jammu & Kashmir and LWE areas.
There are a number of instances where the women bravehearts of the Force have even laid down their lives for the cause of the nation. One illustrious example is that of Constable Kamlesh Kumari, who made the supreme sacrifice fighting terrorists who attacked Parliament in 2001. For her exemplary bravery, she was awarded the Ashoka Chakra posthumously — the highest gallantry medal of the nation during peacetime.
Women warriors like Constable Rekha Khushwaha, Constable Binda Kumari have sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. Besides Constable Kamlesh Kumari, other brave women of the Force who have been honoured with gallantry medals include Bimla Devi (Sena Medal for her role in IPKF in Sri Lanka in 1990), Binda Kumari (Police Medal for Gallantry posthumously) and Santo Devi, then Asst Commandant (President’s Police Medal for Gallantry).
As recently as on January 26, 2020, the entire world was witness to the impressive motorcycle-borne aerobics of the women bikers’ team of CRPF during the Republic Day parade. The team, led by Sujata, kept the audience spellbound with its jaw-dropping stunts on moving bikes. Narrating her passion for biking, Sujata says she did not know how to ride a two-wheeler before she was made a part of the bikers’ team. “I learnt riding motorcycles here in the CRPF. It’s the perfect training imparted by the CRPF that made me overcome fear and perform on moving motorcycles.” Sangita, Deepali Aware, Meena Choudhury and Katke Lata of the ‘daredevil’ team have their names recorded in the Limca Book of Records for their remarkable performance in 2014.
Games & Sports
The women warriors of the CRPF are no less warriors in the sporting arena as well. There are a number of women achievers who have made a mark in the field of games and sports. Prominent among them is Commandant Kunju Rani Devi, who has many national and international sporting medals to her credit in weightlifting. Between 1989 and 2005, she won two Gold, 18 Silver and one Bronze in World Championship events in Weightlifting. For her immense contribution to the field of games and sports, she was honoured with the Arjuna Award in 1990, Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award in 1996 and Padma Shri in 2004.
At least, six of the 16 Arjuna Awards won by the CRPF Sports personnel are women. They are Kunju Rani Devi, W Sandhya Rani, Shilpi Singh, Gitarani, A Anita Chanu and Sanamacha Chanu. Other illustrious sportswomen of the Force include Richa Sharma — 4 Gold each in Senior National Aquatic Championship 2018 and SAF Games 2019; Ashiq Bibi — Silver in Athletics in the Commonwealth Games 2006; Salma MC — 2nd and 3rd positions in 800 metres and 400 metres Relay in World Police Games in 2006, Puspanjali Rana — Gold in National Shooting Championship 2006; and Sharvesh Tomar — Silver in National Shooting Championship 2007. These achievements are only indicative of the sporting prowess of the women personnel of the Force.
Akin to the spectacular contribution of its women warriors, the CRPF has taken many gender-bender initiatives. Under gender budgeting, the Force has made efforts in setting up crèche facilities to take care of babies of women personnel out on deployment. Similarly, vehicles for women personnel as part of convoy have washroom facilities for ease of journey. Recently, gender-akin full body protectors have been provided to ensure physical comfort of the women personnel while handling conflicts. The CRPF is ever alive to the role and contribution of its women warriors and avers its commitment to gender sensitivity.
(The author is IPS — Director General CRPF)