Soldiers near the bomb attack site in Pulwama | PTI
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New Delhi: Reports in some Hindi newspapers and social media messages have claimed that Central Reserve Police Force personnel were forced to travel by road from Jammu to Srinagar last week as the government refused to provide them aircraft, exposing them to danger.

Nothing could be further from the truth, top CRPF officers and government sources told ThePrint Sunday, three days after 40 personnel were killed in a suicide car bomb attack on the convoy in Pulwama.

With bad weather hampering convoy movement for days, a backlog had been created, and even if aircraft had been provided for personnel, there would have been convoy movement, one top CRPF officer said.

“There were about 4,000 troops. The aircraft would not have taken all of them. The convoy would still have been used and will be used in the future also,” the officer told ThePrint on the condition of anonymity.

But he did not give a direct response when asked about the government response to a request for aircraft.

“Everyone is trying to give a spin to suit their narrative. The fact is that such requests (for aircraft) are normal and convoys are very much part of the normal transfer system. In the past too, security personnel have been picked up in aircraft when weather is bad. Convoys have been used for years,” the officer said.

Army personnel also move in convoys, and on an average, 10-12 convoys move every day in Kashmir. Some of them are large movements.


Also read: Pulwama attack raises questions on Kashmir’s intelligence and security structure


Weather a big factor

CRPF sources said 80 per cent of the personnel in the ill-fated convoy had come back from leave and were moving to Kashmir for their postings. The rest included some proceeding on leave, and a majority who were protecting the convoy. Sources said the movement of such a convoy was very normal.

“Usually, it is a convoy of about 40-50 vehicles, but this time, there were 78 because there was a backlog due to weather,” a source said.

Commercial flights in and out of Srinagar were also cancelled due to bad weather on a number of days this month.

The leaked MHA letter

The controversy was sparked after a leaked letter from the home ministry, showed that the Border Security Force had written to it on 7 January this year, demanding the placement of two Mi-17 helicopters in Kashmir for two months to airlift stranded troops during the winter season.

The MHA replied saying that after consultations with the BSF’s Air Wing, it was felt that the stationing of two choppers for two months was not feasible. However, it had also stated that fresh proposals may be submitted for airlift through IAF aircraft as and when needed, which would be examined on a case-by-case basis.

Sources said that a chartered Air India aircraft is used every day to help central police forces posted in the state to fly to New Delhi on leave or transfer. The seats are distributed among all forces — CISF, BSF, ITBP and CRPF.


Also read: 13 detained in Pulwama attack probe, hunt on for Afghan bomb-making expert


Signal to terrorists

Senior CRPF officers agreed that movement of troops by air would be faster, but some also questioned the signal that would go out if such a move is implemented in the wake of threats from terrorists.

“During the Amarnath Yatra, the CRPF provides security on the route, along with Jammu and Kashmir Police and others. But now we should ourselves move by air because of terrorists?” said an officer when asked about comments on social media.

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5 Comments Share Your Views

5 COMMENTS

  1. In India, our people must be able to travel on roads. If they cannot, then the signal is very bad. Our armed forces must own the roads.

  2. But who said seniours officers move by road,, as per your article,, and just imagine US troops moving in buses in Afghan,, they would have surpassed Vietnam casualty figures,, men are most vulnerable moving in large groups without armoured protection ,,basic rule of hybrid warfare

    • There is a difference Afghanistan is alien ground to US forces. Kashmir is very much an integral part of india. If the CRPF had to be airlifted within Indian territory itself then if sends a strong signal to terrorists and emboldens them. no country in the world airlifts several convoys within thier own territory.
      what should have happened was better security check of the area priorly .

  3. We should feel nothing but reverence for these brave men who function in a hostile environment, sometimes lacking basic amenities. Recently, in Sikkim, a young army officer died because electricity was unavailable for a week. Those who perish in the line of duty must be honoured as martyrs. However, those who continue to serve in such harsh conditions should, within the constraints of resources, be looked after much better. Recall the BST trooper who was dismissed from service for highlighting the poor quality of rations. This is also the cost we pay for leaving so many essentially political problems unresolved for decades.

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