Dear CRPF, Why Forget About Human Rights & Use of ‘Minimum Force’?

Security forces are taught to use minimum force, so justifying the violation of human rights just does not sit well.

Published
Opinion
5 min read
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The modern day ‘patriotic nationalist’ has a new ‘hero’ in the form of a young woman constable of the CRPF, the video of whose speech — advocating that it is not possible to fight militancy while observing human rights — has gone viral. The young constable has been showered with lavish praise by so-called ‘nationalists’ for her fiery speech. On the other hand, her speech is equally being condemned by those whom ‘nationalists’ call ‘liberals’.

However, despite equal criticism, some TV channels thought it fit to air only the videos eulogising her speech.

One particular TV anchor deemed the video fit to be aired on prime time, projecting it as a ‘warning’ to the so-called ‘intellectuals’ and ‘tukde tukde gang’.

How Can Forces Justify Violation of Human Rights?

The speech was part of a debate on human rights, held annually for the Central Paramilitary Forces (CPMF), under the aegis of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). Delivered in the presence of judges from NHRC and other senior bureaucrats, her speech was vitriolic to say the least, and full of rhetoric.

What was even worse was that it went on to suggest that pre-emptive violence was justified, and that, expecting the forces to observe human rights was hypocritical.

The contents of the speech effectively destroyed all that she had — and indeed all security forces personnel —learnt about the ‘use of minimum force’ and the necessity of adhering to the principals of human rights.

CRPF’s Hollow ‘Face-Saving’ Exercise

That she went on to win a consolation prize for her efforts, reflects adversely on no less than the institution of the NHRC which is mandated to ensure the protection of human rights. It also reflects poorly on the mindsets of the judges at the event, who perhaps judged the competitors based only on their body language and display of aggression, instead of assessing the content. How can they award someone who advocates violence and justifies the violation of human rights?

After the video became viral and received flak from many quarters, the CRPF released a statement reiterating its ‘commitment’ to human rights. It also accepted that some portions of the speech should not have been there, and that the constable had been suitably advised.

However, this clarification sounds hollow, and is a miserable attempt at face-saving.

The constable could not have reached the finals of this national level debate without having won similar such competitions at lower levels, starting from her unit and going up to the force level.

That the content of her speech met the approval of several officers in the hierarchy of a security force mandated to assist the civil administration in controlling militancy, and in anti-Naxal operations, is indeed a matter of great concern. It is a definite pointer towards the general attitude and mindset of the members of this force towards human rights.

Forces Should Follow Practised Drills, Avoid Politicisation

Security forces’ personnel too have their own notions of human rights. But they cannot claim that they should be under no obligation to observe these while operating, simply because militants do not respect their human rights.

The CPMF personnel have chosen a profession in which they are expected to face life-threatening situations. They have been trained to counter those situations through the effective use of minor tactics and weapons, after proper assessment.

They will suffer casualties if they do not follow practiced drills like the ones that happened in the unfortunate incidents at Pulwama, or in the red corridor of Chhattisgarh a few years ago.

It is the usual militant tactic to strike at the very moment when the forces have let their guards down or are complacent. The examples cited by the woman constable thus are of self-inflicted calamities, and not a violation of the human rights of the CPMF personnel.

Secondly, the references to events at JNU by her was totally uncalled for. The JNU case is sub-judice, and any reference to it should have been avoided. Her call for ‘violence’ against Kanhaiya and the reference to his mother were particularly distasteful. Moreover, the JNU incident had nothing to do with the observance of human rights.

Her reference to the case of JNU is a pointer towards the increasing politicisation of our security forces. Politicisation of the forces is an ominous trend, and doesn’t augur well for discipline and efficiency of the forces, and therefore, pose a threat to the security of the nation. This must be discouraged at all costs.

What NHRC Could Do Instead of Hosting Such Debating Events

In the entire speech, she is right only in one aspect. The troops appear to operate with one hand tied to their backs, figuratively speaking. Several examples can be cited to prove this point.

For instance, an assistant commandant of the Border Security Force had to face lengthy inquiries after a Bangladeshi criminal was killed on the border while indulging in criminal activity inside India.

A genuine case of action in good faith, the officer should not have been made to undergo such mental torture. Thus, they are not sure of the backing of their superiors, even in cases where a casualty or collateral loss occurs in the genuine line of duty. The messaging therefore, has to be correctly packaged. Practicing various contingencies during training and a clear-cut understanding of the concept of ‘minimum force’, will go a long way in allaying the apprehensions of the troops.

Finally, the contents of the speech and the fact that it was considered fit for a prize, doesn’t reflect well on the NHRC itself.

How can an organisation mandated to protect human rights allow such acerbic condemnation of the very cause it is committed to? In fact, the format of the debate itself is faulty. The debate should not be in the form of “for and against”. If the NHRC assumes that by holding such debates, it is encouraging good human right practices, it cannot be farther from the truth.

My recommendation to the NHRC is that they should discontinue such debating events. Instead, they should encourage the forces to monitor and analyse each case which has seen the use of force, and encourage good practices in the line of duty.

(The writer retired from the BSF as additional director-general. He tweets @sood_2. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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