SEPTEMBER 2009: My memories of the young Manipuri officer haunted me during my drive to the technical area of Palam airport. I was going there to pay my last respects, before his body was flown to Imphal. Six months ago, during the interview to enlist officers into the newly raised CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action), the tough-looking Manoranjan Singh came across as confident and determined to join the force while many others were unsure.
After Delhi was convinced about the need for a specialised force to tackle left-wing extremists, the Central Reserve Police Force was given this stupendous task and a close deadline. There were high hopes, a lot of hype and the CRPF was straining to meet the deadline. So, within six months of the interview (Singh was inducted, trained and deployed in Chhattisgarh in the meanwhile), I found myself on the tarmac in Palam. Singh had died while leading a major offensive against left-wing extremists. During the pre-mission briefing, he had told his men that this was to be a litmus test for the newly-raised special force; he declared that his would be the first CoBRA blood to be shed, if it came to that. True to his oath, he was the first CoBRA we lost.
We, at headquarters, knew that we had taken on an enormous task. Mandated to raise 10 units (roughly 10,000 personnel) of CoBRA, the CRPF—already understaffed, over-deployed and showing signs of strains from continuous engagement on insurgency and terrorist grids—had to identify and develop 10 centres in affected states, and induct, train and equip personnel. In addition, senior staff had to formulate SOPs, methodologies and strategies.
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