Darjeeling police raise commando force- Black fatigue, sophisticated weapons and fibreglass gear to tackle riot-like situations in district

Siliguri, July 4: Darjeeling police have raised a 120-strong specially trained commando force and have armed it with 9mm pistols and assault rifles of the AK series to tackle riot-like situations in the district.

The force will be primarily posted in Darjeeling and Siliguri.

“The idea is to maintain a stand-alone force and deploy its trained personnel in different areas of the district to handle riot-like situations or any other serious breach of law and order,” Rahul Srivastava, the superintendent of police of Darjeeling, said today.

“Considering some of the past incidents and the vulnerability of the area, it was decided to form the commando force which will work under the command of officials not below the rank of deputy superintendent or inspector,” Srivastava added.

Sources said following instructions from the state government, senior police officers of the district had selected young and vibrant constables to form the force.

“We conducted tests to shortlist them and trained them to tackle different situations,” the district police chief said. “Apart from Darjeeling Sadar and Siliguri, the commandos will be posted in groups of at least 15 in different police stations.”

Although Srivastava refused to speak in detail about arms and ammunition, the sources said the commandos would be dressed in black fatigue and have sophisticated weapons like 9mm pistols and assault rifles of the AK series.

The district police have also spent around Rs 10 lakh to buy fiberglass gear for the force, including helmets and visors, shin guards, chest guards, batons and shields. (See graphic)

“Once the cadets of the first group are posted, we plan to raise another group of 70 men selected from the existing district police force. They will be an addition to the central para-military companies,” Srivastava said.

Since September last year, Siliguri has seen a series of violent incidents, forcing the administration to call in the army or para-military forces.

On September 28, residents of Siliguri clashed with supporters of Indian Idol contestant, Prashant Tamang. The police had to open fire and later the army and the BSF were deployed.

This year, on May 2, residents beat up pro-Gorkhaland supporters trying to launch a hunger strike near the Siliguri subdivisional office. After that, came the June 8 attack by Bagdogra residents on Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supporters sitting on NH31, demanding permission for a meeting in Naxalbari.

Four days later, a riot-like situation developed at Bhanunagar Colony and Ganesh Ghosh Colony on the outskirts of Siliguri when Nepali-speaking people were attacked.

“This new force will be able to curb such violence much faster,” a police official said.

In another development, the government has recruited as permanent home guards all the 421 volunteers, mostly from the hills, who had helped the police during the Gorkhaland agitation in the eighties. “They will be soon posted in police stations across the district,” said the police chief. Till now, the volunteers served in the force as ad-hoc employees. (The Telegraph)