Following the Pulwama attacks in which a suicide bomber rammed his bomb-laden car in a CRPF convoy killing 40 men, the CRPF is holding series of meetings with the Army, the Jammu and Kashmir police and other agencies in the state to find ways to effectively counter the new challenge of vehicle-borne IEDs.
CRPF DG RR Bhatnagar, who has been in Kashmir since the attacks, said, “We have discussed the new challenge with the Jammu and Kashmir police, the Army and other agencies and we are taking all possible measures to ensure our movements remain safe and we effectively counter the new challenge of vehicle-borne IEDs.”
To protect force convoys from Vehicle-borne IED attacks, Home Minister Rajnath Singh had on Friday announced that civilian vehicles would not be allowed on highways when convoys move. It was a practice followed in the peak of militancy in Kashmir but discontinued since 2000s. The announcement has been questioned on whether it can be implemented and how much inconvenience it would cause to ordinary life.
Bhatnagar said a model was being worked out implement it in the best way possible. “We will sit down (with other stake holders) and find solutions so that there is least inconvinience to locals and the convoy security is better,” he said.
With his force having suffered the worst terror strike in the Valley ever, Bhatnagar on Saturday spent his entire day visiting units spread across Kashmir to boost the force’s morale. “The morale of the force is very good. I went to several units and spoke to many men. We are a strong and battle hardened force. We are determined to face this new challenge. Both officers and the men are accepting the professional challenge they have ahead of them,” Bhatnagar said in a telephonic conversation with The Indian Express.
On questions being raised on the length of the convoy and the absence of bullet-proof vehicles, Bhatnagar said that the impact of the attack made both the things irrelevant. As reported by The Indian Express on Saturday, days of snow and bandh in the Valley had forced CRPF to send a very long convoy of 78 vehicles with 2,547 soldiers. This had resulted in half the men going in buses rather than armoured vehicles making the convoy vulnerable.
“The convoy was slightly longer but that can happen in the winters as movement hadn’t happened for days due to snow. It was the fifth vehicle from the front that was hit, so the length of the convoy is irrelevant. Buses are used in all convoys. Also, bunkers (armoured vehicles) are no protection against this kind of a blast. In Chhattisgarh even mine protected vehicles get blown up. These are just bullet-proof vehicles. They could not have withstood this blast,” Bhatnagar said.
The CRPF DG also met personnel who were part of the convoy that came under attack. As reported by the Indian Express earlier, the attack had put several men in a state of shock and grief. These men, Bhatnagar said, were now being provided psychological help.
“There is a bit of trauma among the men who were in the convoy. They have suffered losses of their dear friends and colleagues so some of them are in a state of shock and grief. We are providing them psychological help and counseling. I myself spoke to several of them and even senior officers have been engaged into talking to them and helping them come out of it. But the numbers are not too high. CRPF is a tough force. The men know such losses are part of the professional challenge,” Bhatnagar said.
The DG also corroborated assertion made by investigating agencies about a Maruti Eeco car that come close to the convoy on Thursday and was seen by CRPF men but detonated before anyone could react.