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Tripura a success story for police: Former top cop
Published on 24 Sep. 2009 11:51 PM IST
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Tripura is one of India's three success stories as far as curbing militancy is concerned, feels B.L. Vohra, the former director-general of police often credited with bringing peace back to the northeastern state. The state, which was once known as the "abduction capital of the northeast", is peaceful and prosperous now, Vohra said in the capital. "When I took over as the director-general of Tripura police in 2000, insurgency was at its peak," Vohra told IANS at the launch of a book, "The Eyewitness: Tales from Tripura's Ethnic Conflict" by Manas Paul, here Wednesday. "Everyday there would be at least two to three kidnappings for extortion and an equal number of raids. It was a watershed year in the history of insurgency in Tripura. People stayed at home fearing militant attacks. I decided to change the counter-insurgency strategy. Tripura is almost peaceful now, barring stray incidents," he said. Besides Tripura, Vohra cited Punjab and to an extent Andhra Pradesh as the states that had succeeded in curbing insurgency. "When I took over, I realised that police were helpless and demotivated. They were a rag tag force which did not have the wherewithal - motivation, training and support - to fight insurgency. "I felt that three things had to be done. One, to build up the force and two, give them all the weapons they wanted; and move them out of the urban police outposts - which they were reluctant to leave for fear of ambushes - to the forests, the hub of militancy," said Vohra, an Indian Police Service officer of the 1967 batch. Vohra said he took the battle to the insurgents' turf and "launched offensives even before the militants could attack". "The Central Reserve Police Force helped us. Sometimes I would trek 40 km inside the jungles in areas under the control of terrorists to motivate the force," Vohra said. "I set up police camps in the remote interior villages with the support of Chief Minister Manik Sarkar and the chief secretary of the state. There was a disconnect - the police patrolled the roads and the militants ruled the jungles. I had to set up contacts to take on the insurgents in their own lair," he said. The police brass decided to cut off militants' "recruitment and intelligence pool". "Under the 1861 Police Act, which allowed recruitment of special police officers from among the civilians, I recruited local unemployed village youths who were turning to militancy as special officers for Rs.1,500 a month. Initially, I recruited 50 boys who knew the militants' whereabouts and could gather intelligence. I set them up in jungle police outposts and trained them. The political leadership was initially reluctant, but they eventually agreed. The strategy paid off," Vohra said. It served four purposes. "The move cut down the militants' supply of new recruits and intelligence, gave the boys an income, allowed them to tend to their land and gave us the manpower and intelligence," Vohra said. The police officer, who has just returned from a visit to Tripura, said the number of special police officers in the village outposts has now swelled to 4,000 and they are paid Rs.3,000 a month. "The outreach strategy was the final blow to militancy in Tripura," he said. Describing the criminalisation of the militants' ranks in the state, Manas Paul said "kidnappings and extortions had almost become an industry". "The militants would demand anything between Rs.500 and Rs.100,000 and above from the victims' family in the late 1990s because development activity had stopped in the tribal areas and schools had closed down. The youth had to survive," Paul said. "Full scale militancy started in Tripura in 1993 though the Tripura National Volunteers, the first armed squad, was set up in the late 1970s. But now, more two decades later, the states' two major militant outfits, the ATTF (All Tripura Tiger's Force) and the TNLF (Tripura National Liberation Front) are active outside the state - in Bangladesh," Paul said. The book, "The Eyewitness..." published by Lancer simultaneously in India and the US, traces the growth of ethnic militancy in Tripura in the perspective of its changing politics. It also describes the decline of tribal militancy caused by relentless police onslaught over the last nine years, large scale desertions, factional feuds and corruption in the ranks.

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