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8 Feb 2017

Homesick jawans back after desertion

Ramashankar, TT, Patna, Feb. 7: All 59 commandos of the CRPF's Combat Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) reported back to the battalion headquarters at Barachatti in Gaya district on Tuesday, three days after they "deserted" their unit.
The commandos had fled from a train ferrying them to Gaya after a six-month training in Jammu and Kashmir.
CRPF (Bihar sector) inspector-general Manvinder Singh Bhatia confirmed their return and said the commandant of the CoBRA battalion and the CRPF's deputy inspector-general (DIG) was conducting a detailed investigation.
This is perhaps the first occasion in recent times when such a large number of jawans defied seniors' orders and availed "unauthorised leave".
CoBRA battalion inspector-general (IG) Raju Bhargav, a 1995-batch IPS officer of Gujarat cadre, and CRPF, Gaya, DIG Sajauddin visited the battalion headquarters at Barachatti, around 35km south of Gaya district headquarters town, today and talked to each jawan of the elite force's 205 battalion. Bhatia said a report had been sought from battalion commandant L. Lhozem. "Disciplinary action will be initiated against the jawans on the basis of the report," Bhatia said. All the personnel are Bihar residents.
A deputy commandant, who was present during interrogation, said the commandos unanimously decided to visit their homes while returning to Gaya by train. "As the train reached Mughalsarai Junction early on Saturday, all 59 jawans alighted from the train and left for their native places in Bihar," the deputy commandant quoted a jawan as saying.
CRPF director-general K. Durga Prasad said all the 59 CoBRA commandos returned to their Gaya regiment by Tuesday afternoon. "They told us that they were homesick and wanted to visit their families and that's why they fled. It's a serious dereliction of duty and a departmental inquiry has already been initiated against them," Prasad told The Telegraph.
A CRPF source, however, said some 20 jawans were yet to return and notices had been sent to their houses.
Asked what action will be taken, Prasad said: "Since this was an unprecedented incident we don't know the nature of punishment given for such misconduct... such acts are considered disobedience and cannot be tolerated."
"All of the 59 were incommunicado after fleeing," said a senior CRPF official. "On Monday our men called them up on their cellphones and asked them to report for duty by Tuesday morning or face consequences. They were told that they had been absent without any permission and soon an arrest warrant will be procured against them from a local court after declaring them deserter officially."
The force also sent notices to their respective residence, asking them to report for duty immediately.
Prasad said they should have taken leave if they were missing their families after completing their training in Srinagar. "They should have taken proper approval and followed procedures. The inquiry will also look into details whether they knew about the service rules and also why they did not take permission from their superiors."
Once declared "deserter" an arrest is procured against a soldier from a magistrate court. A court of enquiry is ordered as per rule 31(a) of the CRPF Rules, 1955, for going on leave without permission.
The commandant or any other authority or officer, may, award in lieu of, or in addition to, suspension or dismissal any one or more of the following punishments to any member of the force whom he considers to be guilty of disobedience, neglect of duty, remissness in the discharge of any duty or of other misconduct in his capacity as a member of the force - dismissal from the service or a fine of any amount not exceeding one month's pay and allowances.
One of the jawans reportedly told the interrogators that since they had not visited their homes in the past six months of rigorous training, they couldn't resist the urge to visit their homes when the train reached Mughalsarai. The jawan, a resident of Buxar district, close to the Bihar-Uttar Pradesh border, spent three days at home before returning to headquarters.
The jawans were supposed to leave Jammu and Kashmir on February 5 and report back to the battalion headquarters on February 7.
Most CRPF officials tried to downplay the incident, saying it had an emotional angle as they wished to visit their native place after being stranded in Srinagar for a week because of snowfall after their training was complete.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY IMRAN AHMED SIDDIQUI IN NEW DELHI

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