For Sardar's sake

For Sardar's sake

For Sardar's sake

Date: October 31, 1984; Venue: CRPF Parade Ground, Jharoda Kalan near Najafgarh in New Delhi. The anniversary parade of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) was in progress. The then Union Home Minister Buta Singh, who was the chief guest, had returned to the dais after reviewing the parade when a Delhi Police officer approached him and whispered that Indira Gandhi had been shot. He hurriedly left the place. His abrupt departure left everyone guessing, though the remaining part of the parade went on as usual, with the then director general taking the salute and presenting the medals.

That abrupt end to the anniversary celebrations marked the close of a chapter in CRPF history.

Till then, CRPF Day was celebrated on October 31 every year. The day was particularly chosen to honour the memory of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, whose birth anniversary it was. It's to him that the CRPF owes its existence. His sagacity and farsightedness in retaining the erstwhile Crown Representative's Police (CRP) post-Independence yielded rich dividends.

In time, from just one battalion raised on July 27, 1939, it has expanded to the present 239 battalions, with a strength of nearly 3.5 lakh personnel and boasting of being the largest paramilitary force in the world. It speaks volumes of the efficiency, versatility, impartiality and dedication to duty of this magnificent force that the demand for its services has been ever-increasing all over the country. In no way would it have belittled the stature of Indira Gandhi had October 31 continued to be CRPF Day.

This year, the CRPF celebrated its anniversary on March 19, to commemorate the presentation of colours to this force on March 19, 1950.

After Independence, the force was at a crossroads, with the new government still in its incipient stage and wondering as to what was to be done with the Police of His Majesty.

Raised in 1939 as the Crown Representative's Police, to be rushed in aid to the small princely kingdoms to maintain law and order, the force is credited with killing one of the most dreaded and legendary dacoits, Man Singh, in the Chambal Valley in the pre-Independence days.

Its stellar role in Sind province during the Hur menace from 1942 to 1944 drew applause from the British masters. Initially commanded by British officers, the personnel of this organisation were largely drawn from the Army, with a sprinkling of police personnel in its ranks.

Since the CRP had proved its efficiency, efficacy and versatility, the new government post-Independence had to take a decision whether to retain or disband it. Sardar Patel envisioned an important role for CRP as an armed force of the Union of India, to be deployed at the behest of the central government. His vision for this force led to its retention as the Central Reserve Police, thereby retaining the acronym CRP. The word "Force" subsequently came to be added due to legalities, following the crushing of Naxalism in West Bengal by the CRP in 1971.

After 1984, CRPF Day has been celebrated on different dates, depending on the convenience and availability of the chief guest - usually the Union home minister. It was observed on December 28 during the late 80s, as the Governor General had given his assent to the retention of this force on that date in 1949 and the CRPF Act, 1949, came into being.

But the hostile weather conditions at that time of the year led to its being shelved once for all. During one such anniversary parade on a wintry December morning, the spectators were unable to see the marching parade contingents just 50 yards away due to poor visibility in the dense fog.

When the golden jubilee of the CRPF was to be celebrated in 1989, the fluid political climate towards the end of the year, coupled with the inability of the then prime minister to set aside a date to grace the occasion, led the CRPF to postpone the anniversary parade repeatedly, till it was finally celebrated on March 7, 1990, with the then prime minister V P Singh taking the salute.

A day of its own

Thankfully enough, the Union Public Service Commission or the Staff Selection Commission does not ask its examinees as to when CRPF Day is celebrated in the General Knowledge paper. They wouldn't be able to answer it, since there is no answer for it. All other central forces have their own founding day but not the CRPF. The CRPF anniversary is observed on the day the chief guest they choose to invite finds it convenient to grace the occasion.  

The CRPF is the main force combating terrorism, insurgency and even conducting anti-Maoist operations in the Left-wing affected states. Internal security is the main responsibility of this force and the central government relies heavily on it for the maintenance of law and order in the country. With men and women drawn from all parts of the country and from all religions, its impartiality during communal riots and elections is evident from the demand for it made by the states and the Election Commission on such occasions.

It is time that the CRPF authorities decided to revert to October 31 as CRPF Day and thus honour Sardar Patel, the stalwart who successfully undertook the arduous task of uniting the country after Independence, for the simple reason that the CRPF owes its existence to this eminent statesman who stood tall among the leaders who fought for our Independence.

(The writer is a former Inspector General of Police, CRPF)

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