By being at the vanguard of peace keeping of the nation for over 81 years now, 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, 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 trail-blazer in ultimate bravery and sacrifice, the tell-tale proof of which lies in its being invested with 1976 gallantry medals- the highest tally among all the 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 entire country- making it a pioneer in intelligent & integrated policing.
On the 6th of February 1986, 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 CRPF but also the world’s first women battalion. It was this battalion which formed an important part of the IPKF deployed in the war-torn Sri Lanka to restore peace. The gender-sensitive profile of the Force got a further fillip on 20th January 2007 when an all-women formed contingent of 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. 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 areas and are proving their battle mettle.
Combat Role:- The women personnel of CRPF have proved their fighting spirit in grappling with terrorism and the menace of maoism. In 1990, women were deployed in N-E region to fight insurgency shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. Since then, many women of the force are now actively engaging the anti-national elements in conflict zones like J&K and LWE areas. There are a number of instances where the women brave hearts 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 Ashok Chakra posthumously which is the highest gallantry medal of the nation during peace time. Women warriors like Constable Rekha Khushwaha, Constable Binda Kumare have sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. Besides Constable Kamlesh Kumare, 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 Ms. Santo Devi, the then Asst Commandant- President’s Police Medal for Gallantry.
Mahila Daredevils:- As recently as on 26th January 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 spell bound with their jaw-dropping stunts on moving motor bikes. Narrating her passion for biking, Sujata says she had not even learnt how to drive a two wheeler before she was made a part of the bikers’ team. “ I learnt riding motor cycles here in CRPF only. It’s the perfect training imparted by 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 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 Ms. Kunju Rani Devi, Commandant who has many national and international sporting medals to her credit in the weightlifting event. Between 1989 to 2005, she has won 2 Gold, 18 Silver and one Bronze in World Championship events in Weightlifting. For her immense contribution in the field of games and sports she has been honoured with the Aujuna Award in 1990, Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award in 1996 and Padmashree in 2004. At least 6 out of the 16 Arjuna Awards won by the CRPF Sports personnel are women. They are Ms. Kunju Rani Devi, W. Sandhya Rani, Shilpi Singh, Gitarani, A. Anita Chanu and Sanamacha Chanu. Other illustrious sports women 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 M C-2nd and 3rd positions in 800 meters and 400 meters Relay in World Police Games in 2006, Puspanjali Rana-Gold in National Shooting Championship 2006; 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, CRPF too has taken many a gender-bender initiatives. Under gender budgeting, the Force has made efforts in setting up crèche to take care of babies of women personnel out on deployment. Similarly, the vehicles for women personnel as part of convoy are ensured to have washroom facilities for ease of journey. Recently gender-akin full body protectors have been provisioned to ensure physical comfort of the women personnel while handling conflicts.
CRPF is ever alive to the role and contribution of its women warriors and avers its commitment to gender sensitivity.
The writer is IPS DG, CRPF