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7 Feb 2017

Homesick force scoots - CoBRA commandos slither out of train

Imran Ahmed Siddiqui, TT, New Delhi, Feb. 6:  India's biggest paramilitary force trained to hunt down insurgents is now on an uncommon mission to track down 59 of its own commandos whose unit goes by the name CoBRA.
The 59 commandos, fresh from a boot camp in snow-blanketed Kashmir, apparently "deserted" their unit by fleeing from a train ferrying them to Gaya in Bihar.
The rookie commandos, who have completed a six-month training course in Jammu and Kashmir, belong to CoBRA, which stands for "Combat Battalion for Resolute Action".
The CRPF, the parent organisation, suggested it was a case of AWOL (absent without official leave). The paramilitary force said in a statement the commandos "decided on their own to avail Saturday and Sunday to visit their home without permission" and described it as a "misconduct".
But an internal message from the CRPF to its formations across the country on Sunday night was less euphemistic: "These constables deserted from the train without the permission of competent authority."
Sources said the commandos disappeared early on Saturday at Mughalsarai in Uttar Pradesh. Before fleeing, the commandos badly thrashed a head constable who was escorting them on the Jammu Tawi-Sealdah Express, which they had boarded on Thursday evening. They were scheduled to report at the headquarters of the 205 CoBRA unit in Gaya today for deployment.
The train's scheduled time of arrival at Mughalsarai is 2.40am and it stops for about 20 minutes. It takes another four hours to reach Gaya.
"As soon as the train stopped at Mughalsarai, the commandos thrashed head constable Vijay Singh and fled. They also left behind the trunk boxes given to them. We have spread our teams out to locate the deserters," a senior CRPF officer said.
CRPF director-general K. Durga Prasad could not be reached on his cellphone despite several attempts.
The CRPF said in a statement: "Due to inclement weather and road blockade, these personnel were sent to Jammu on 1 Feb and decided to board an early train on February 2. Since they were early as per their scheduled programme, they decided on their own to avail Saturday and Sunday to visit their home without prior permission from competent authority. These personnel have committed a misconduct for which they will be dealt departmentally."
A source in the 205 CoBRA unit in Gaya said most of the 59 commandos belonged to eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar districts such as Buxar, about 100km from Mughalsarai. "We are keeping our fingers crossed and are hoping that they will return in the next few days," said a CRPF officer.
Union home ministry sources said this was the first such mass desertion of CoBRA commandos of the CRPF, the country's biggest paramilitary force.
"This is very embarrassing and an inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the reason behind the unprecedented desertion," an official said.
The desertion comes at a time paramilitary forces have been in the news with a BSF jawan uploading a video clip in which he complained of bad working conditions and poor quality of food.
A CRPF official posted in Srinagar - where the 59 commandos had trained for six months - said: "It seems they went to their respective homes as they were missing their families. It was more of an emotional issue as they had been far away from their native places and in a hostile condition. They were stranded in Srinagar for about a week because of the snowfall after completing their training."
The duration of the basic training course is nine months but these commandos spent only six months there as they had earlier served in the field.

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