Shailesh Kumar, National Defence
New Delhi, 03 May 2018
With increasing violence by protestors and stone-pelters, there is need of specialist Riot Police Battalions in India and surely in Jammu & Kashmir. Armed with modern non-lethal weapons, modern crowd-dispersal techniques and modern day-night surveillance equipment; India is in dire need of such Riot Police Battalions for the deterrence to hold in the domain of law and order situation.
Protests, violent or peaceful, are elemental to nations across the globe, whether it’s a democracy or a dictatorship. Governments are challenged when protests take a violent turn and handling them effectively and efficiently is the real test. In some instances, poor handling of such situations have caused entire governments to tumble, like in the case of Syria.
When the Syrian uprising started, thousands of demonstrators were killed and the Assad government used deadly force to crush the dissent. This did not play well with the Syrians and the uprising only intensified. The result is a 7-years-long civil war that doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon.
Israel Takes the Lead
This year in March-April, Israel made headlines for using a new technology to deal with protesters along the Gaza border. It deployed drones to drop tear gas canisters on demonstrators from above. It has also been reported that Israel plans on using the technology for upcoming protests. At the moment, the drone has the capacity to transport six tear gas canisters at once.
This innovation could be one of the most effective ways to contain violent protests and it would do good to India to adopt this technique in the future.
Israeli drones dropping smoke canisters on protestors. Results were instant.
Are Drones an Option in India
Deploying drones to drop tear gas on protesters would have many benefits. Let’s take a look at some of these benefits.
Firstly, the use of unmanned aerial vehicles would mean that fewer security forces would be required on the ground to quell protests. This neutralizes any danger to the troops.
Secondly, the drone allows for a more precise targeting which implies that it would allow one to target those people or groups that are actually stirring up trouble. Hence, collateral damage would be largely reduced.
Thirdly, the drone has the capability of flying over certain areas which would not be accessible to security forces on the ground. This would allow for a faster and better control of the situation.
More so it will bring in an element of imagination and ingenuity to the employment of forces in quelling of violent protests.
India’s Predicament and Options
Protestors in India as anywhere else are escalating level of violence. Stone-pelters in J&K have given a totally different dimension to the law & order problem. Stone-pelters have sometimes succeeded in failing well-executed operations by the security forces.
Stone-pelters are not really protestors but are daily wage-earners. They are indoctrinated and recruited over ground workers who assist terrorists to escape during operations, act as harbourers, act as conduits for fund and intelligence and facilitate actions by terrorists. During operations they pelt thousands of stones in a short time wherein some stones may weigh upto 3kgs as well, to cause body harms to security forces personnel. Security forces have retaliated with deep restraint against these stone-pelters. Sometimes in self-defence security forces have resorted to restrained firings and in a few cases, deaths of 1 or 2 stone –pelters has occurred. These deaths have resulted later in political hyperboles which have blinded even the wisest. Political rhetoric and grant of political amnesty to more than 1800 stone-pelters has created a sense of triumph among Pak-abetted terrorists at the cost of weakening morale among security forces. Deaths of offensive stone-pelters ready to lynch security force personnel, as it happened on January 27, 2018 with the company of Major Aditya, is non-acceptable to state political hierarchy. So no deaths to these brutal criminals helping terrorists!
Obviously India needs to up the ante against stone-pelters, escalate violence and dispersal methodologies without causing any physical death. Of course there will be oppositions to these also as it was in the case of pallet guns but operations by security forces failing due to stone-pelters are not acceptable.
India has Central Reserve Police Force and Rapid Action Force for riot control. But these forces lack requisite specialisation. There is need of specialist Riot Police Battalions. Riot Police Battalions are the organisation for the future and these must be a scalable organisation in terms of manpower, technology and methodologies. As a pilot project, following is needed as soon as possible in J&K.
- One battalion in each of the district in Kashmir valley and each battalion to have six companies.
- One battalion in Rajouri and Jammu with six companies each.
These battalions can function under DGP, J&K Police and can be funded by State Government with due support from the Center. State has to play a larger role as law & order is a state subject.
Civilian protests, in India and elsewhere, tend to turn violent very quickly and in such situations minimising the loss of life and reducing collateral damage is the only option. For instance, last month’s Dalit protests, opposing the Supreme Court’s ruling that bars immediate arrest of individuals accused of discriminating against them, quickly took a violent turn. Protesters started burning public property, clashing with the police and forcing shops to shut down. Another instance of protests turning violent is the Jat quota agitation. The forces used lathis, tear gas, and water cannons when dealing with mob violence but in the days to come, there will be need of higher deterrence and more effective methodologies.
Riot Police Battalions are the answers to the emerging threats that should have modern crowd-dispersal techniques, modern day-night surveillance equipment, light mine-protected and bulletproof vehicles with effective non-lethal weapons which must deter the stone-pelters and violent protestors alike. J&K should be the first state to pilot the idea with due support from the Center. In the run-up to this capability building, India is yearning for Riot Police Battalions as a tool of political repression by violently breaking up protests, to disperse or control crowds, to maintain public order and above all discourage criminality. Nations across the globe are resorting to increased militarization of riot and protest policing, with riot police deploying drones, light armoured cars, snipers, flashbang grenades, pallet guns and guns with plastic bullets.
India needs Riot Police Battalions, J&K needs them even more.
Shailesh Kumar is an independent journalist with over 15 years of experience in crime, political and defence reporting for leading media brands including Star News, India TV and NewsX. He is the founder editor of defence and security news portal and web channel, National Defence.