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Bastariya Battalion

Bastariya Battalion

Why in news?

  • ‘Bastariya’ battalion of the CRPF, created for the first-time with more than 534 tribal youths from Chhattisgarh was commissioned by the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh

What comprises the new force?

  • The Bastariya Battalion comprises of local recruits from 4 districts of undivided Bastar: Sukma, Dantewada, Narayanpur and Bijapur.
  • The battalion has 33 percent representation of women combatants with 189 ‘mahila’ constables.
  • The recruits have been trained for about 44 weeks in jungle warfare, weapons firing, map reading, police laws and unarmed combat.
  • The concept to raise the team was mooted with the aim that the recruits, mostly tribals, will help address local issues such as unemployment, provide tactical advantage to CRPF in operations, intelligence collection and language benefits.

What are the special features of the force?

  • The battalion is familiar with the local terrain and language as the personnel have been recruited from the local districts.
  • It has been commissioned in order to fight with the Maoists in region.      Bastariya Battalion
  • It will also help bridge the disconnect between the CRPF, which comprises personnel from all over the country, and the local population.

What are the concerns about it?

  • It revives memories of the Salwa Judum, the now disbanded militia force.    Bastariya Battalion

About Salwa Judum:

  • Salwa Judum was mobilised in 2005. Many of the volunteers were former Maoists.
  • Those in favour of the idea claim that the Judum was a “spontaneous uprising” of tribal people against Maoist violence in Bastar, and helped in countering Naxals in the region.
  • Yet, by the time the force was banned by the Supreme Court in 2011, it had acquired a bloody and controversial reputation.
  • The state government allegedly supplied arms and tacit support to the Judum, which had turned into a vigilante group, recruiting poorly trained youth as “Koya Commandos”, or “SPOs (Special Police Officers)”.
  • There were many allegations against the Judum: entering and burning villages, sexual assault, murders etc.
  • The local population had two choice: either to join Judum or be declared as Maoists.
  • Many people were displaced to the nearby states of Andhra and Telangana, never to return back to their homes.
  • Activists argue that the New Bastariya Battalion may bring back the terror of now disbanded Salwa Judum.
  • It is like pitting tribal against the tribals and giving an option between life and death to the local people.
  • What is the difference between Salwa Judum and Bastariya Battalion?
  • The main difference is between the training.        Bastariya Battalion
  • The latter has been given a 44 weeks training which included not just modules on jungle warfare and weapons training, but also civic responsibilities and human rights.
  • They are CRPF constables like any other, and not a vigilante group.
  • The presence of locals will increase the sensitivity of the CRPF, especially with one-third of the recruits being women.

Conclusion: | Bastariya Battalion 

  • The scars that the Salwa Judum left behind in Bastar are deep, its wounds have still not completely healed.
  • The success or failure of the Bastariya Warriors in Chhattisgarh will be judged not only by their “operational successes”, but also by their human rights record.
  • They should be and will be under constant scrutiny of civil society, the media and, most importantly, the adivasis who live in the forests in Bastar’s conflict zone.
  • Bastariya Battalion

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