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2 Months Before Pulwama Attack, Senior Officer’s Letter Highlighted Lack of Facilities in CRPF’s Counter-Insurgency and Anti-Terrorism Schools

He wrote saying they did not offer “a single course” on anti-terror operations reported the Indian Express.

From January 2018 to November 2018, less than two months before the Pulwama attack on CRPF convoy in Pulwama that claimed lives of forty CRPF soldiers, a senior officer reportedly red-flagged the poor condition of the anti-terror training institute under the aegis of the CRPF.  The officer sent a report and wrote a series of letters to the CRPF headquarters in New Delhi highlighting the lack of facilities in the CRPF’s counter-terror training apparatus.

Deeptiman Tiwary writing for The Indian Express reported that the letters made it sufficiently clear that the specialised training schools (Counter Insurgency and Anti Terrorism Schools) sanctioned in January 2014, massively lacked the infrastructure — so much so, that going against the name of the schools, they did not offer “a single course” on anti-terror operations. Reportedly, Rajnish Rai, a 1992 batch IPS Officer who was in news for arresting three IPS officers while investigating the Sohrabuddin Shaikh fake encounter case in 2007, wrote the last of these letters to the headquarters.

The report stated that they argued that the supposedly largest anti-terror and anti-insurgency force in the country has no permanent structure, no firing range, no boundary wall. “In the last four years, over 150 training and administrative staff have been posted there ‘to merely fill the vacancies’. And, it does ‘not offer a single CIAT (Counter Insurgency and Anti Terrorism) related course’,” it said.

Per the report, Rai was in charge of the CRPF’s 175-acre CIAT school in Andhra Pradesh’s Chittoor, one of the three such schools allotted to the force by the Union Home Ministry. The MoH in 2007 under UPA-II, envisaged 21 such facilities for various forces in the country. Rai, a 1992-batch IPS officer of the Gujarat cadre, was serving as CRPF IG (Northeast Sector) till June 2017, when he was reportedly asked to take charge of the CIAT school in Chittoor. This transfer came three months after he had called for a probe by a joint team of Army, CRPF, SSB and police in Assam’s Chirang — into what he alleged was a fake encounter.

According to IE, in his letters, Rai pointed out that the personnel headed out to conflict areas are insufficiently trained by the CRPF schools. They are only provided theatre-specific, short-term pre-induction (PI) training to staff headed towards Kashmir, the Northeast or the districts affected by Naxalism, his letter reportedly mentioned.

Per the report, in his letter on February 5, 2018, Rai wrote that while the CRPF has three CIAT schools, none of them offered a single for anti-terror ops to the personnel. “Presently, CRPF has three CIAT Schools in the country; yet, contrary to what the name suggests, we do not offer a single CIAT related course in any of these locations. This is even more surprising since we know very well that CRPF is in the forefront of facing three internal security challenges: terrorism in Kashmir Valley, the insurgency in Northeast, and left-wing extremism (LWE) in Central India.”

While Rai was not available for comment, a senior CRPF officer, speaking on condition of anonymity told the Indian Express that “some kind of training” could have been started in Chittoor by Rai despite the limitations.

Also read: 10 Important Questions We Need to Ask Narendra Modi About Pulwama and Balakot

“It is true that the Chittoor school has no infrastructure. There is no proper infrastructure at the Silchar and Shivpuri schools, either. Bureaucracy has its own pace. But as officers, we have to learn to use the resources available to us in the best possible way. Some kind of training could have been started at Chittoor. After all, PI training is also a form of counter-terror training,” the officer was quoted as saying.

Reportedly, on November 22, 2018, Rai also wrote that “…even when no training was conducted… almost full strength of officers/men were posted at CIAT School, Chittoor since its inception, and salaries and allowances were paid to the CRPF personnel posted here.” The Chittoor school, spread over 175 acres, was set up in 2014. The other two CRPF schools are in Assam’s Silchar and Madhya Pradesh’s Shivpuri, which according to the CRPF provide Northeast theatre-specific and LWE theatre-specific training respectively.

Reportedly, in his letters, Rai pointed to the difference between PI and CIAT training. “PI training introduces participants to the new operational theatres… Whereas, CIAT training is essential for understanding the geographical and cultural terrain, operational tactics, and the psychological profiles of insurgents/terrorists. While PI training provides perspectives on challenges facing an operational theatre, strategic insights on how to deal with insurgents/terrorists in specific contexts can be acquired only through in-depth CIAT training,” he wrote, per the report.

“Lack of truthful and transparent analysis of operations /has meant the CRPF has little institutional ability to learn from its mistakes,” he reportedly added. In addition to this, the report adds that in 2016 when Rai was posted in the Northeast, he had made it public that no CIAT training was being conducted at the Silchar school since September 2015. Sources told The Indian Express the CRPF has recently been holding QAT training there, while a similar course focused on LWE areas was started in Shivpuri this year.

Incidentally, the supervising officer with Gujarat’s CID-Crime probing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case in 2007 was Rajnish Rai, who had arrested three top officers, DG Vanzara, MN Dinesh, Rajkumar Pandiyan after the investigation.

As listed in the Indian Express, the following are the concerns flagged by Rai in his letters on the CIAT school at Chittoor:

– It was operating out of 44 pre-fabricated (PF) huts with no permanent structure. There were plans to construct 26 more PF huts.

– Only 39 training staff had been sanctioned for around 800 personnel. Out of 15 sanctioned officers in supervisory roles, only four were “physically present”.

– It had not conducted a training needs analysis and there is “no clear direction” for providing counter-terror training.

– No boundary wall or fencing, Battle Obstacle Assault Course infrastructure, running track and IED lane for IED-related training.

– No firing range. The 169 acres allotted for the range is stuck in a land dispute, and the state police range, 70 km away, was subject to availability. There was also a lack of access to a jungle, and no indoor classrooms for elaborate training on jungle survival, or sand-model tutorials.

– Only one of the five sanctioned borewells had been set up, which was not adequate for the three storage tanks of eight lakh litres each.

Last December, Rai was suspended by the Home Ministry for “unauthorised handing over of charge” after he quit the service citing an application for voluntary retirement in August, which had reportedly been rejected. In January, the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) stayed the Centre’s action. Following this, Rai has moved the Gujarat High Court. According to the report, when Indian Express contacted the CRPF, it did not respond specifically to the contents of Rai’s report and letters.

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