CRPF women break a barrier

The first women CRPF personnel deployed for combat duties ever say they were worried going into Chhattisgarh but are now itching to go back

The 22-year-old hasn't told anyone in her Chhattisgarh village what she does. Bela Minj, a mother of two, is still nursing the thrill of cradling an X-95 assault rifle. Milbred Ekka went in with thoughts of concern only for her nine-year-old son in a hostel in Ranchi. Banita Mahana had a harder time convincing her sobbing elder brother that all would be fine.

The four are among the 35 CRPF personnel who recently became the first women to be engaged in combat operations in the force's history. In fact, women personnel of any armed forces in the country are never sent for combat operations. Even the Indian Army does not send its women personnel for field operations. However, enthused by the success of its experiment in deploying the 35, from Naxal-hit states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa, in the jungles of Chhattisgarh in January this year, the CRPF is planning to repeat the same.

The women stayed in the jungle for 90 days and were give pre-induction training in jungle warfare. Currently they are posted in Delhi for law and order duties.

"We believe that women personnel are as capable as their male counterparts. Most of them gave a positive feedback on return and now we will be deploying more women in these areas," says Zulfiquar Hasan, IG (operations), CRPF.

The 22-year-old who doesn't want her identity revealed says that till 2009, she didn't even know what the CRPF stood for. She happened to join the force by chance when her friend brought over an enrolment form to her Chhattisgarh village and told her "bharti ho rahi hai (they are conducting recruitment)".

"Initially, I thought it was an application for a job in the state police. I filled it and went for the physical endurance test. While I got the job, my friend could not," she chuckles.

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