It’s a winter afternoon and 40 commandos, most in their early 20s, are warming up for a training session at Delhi’s Police Training College. Clad in blue track pants and jackets they take on four constables in a mock combat.
Their next task is to climb a four-storey building with just ropes. This is followed by a terror attack drill in a building in which a ‘hostage’ has been held.
A group of commandos walks up the stairs discreetly with guns and revolvers in their hands. Two of them enter the room and one of them shouts, “Fire!” And then “Target neutralised.”
Having completed a rigorous round of training, the batch is gearing to join Delhi’s SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team. And they are about to make history: they will be the first group of women from the Northeast to join the SWAT team.
Sarju Bala, Sonira, Kanmani, Tumbi and 130 other women from the Northeast arrived in Delhi in April last year to join the Delhi Police. After they completed a 10-month course, the group was asked how many would be interested in enrolling for an advanced commando course.
And 40 jumped at the opportunity. “ Laga ke kuch naya karke dikhayenge [I felt I could prove myself, that I could do something different],” says Sarju, 26, from Manipur, who joined the police after completing her Bachelors in physical education.
The women have undergone training in self-defence, obstacle courses and shooting, and are adept at handling AK-47, MP5, and revolver. “I can proudly say these are the toughest girls I’ve trained in years,” says Assistant Commissioner Om Prakash Sharma. Their barracks are getting ready on Barakhamba Road, and the commandos should be able to join the team in the next 10 to 20 days, a senior police officer at the Police Training College says. Kanmani, 23, from Assam’s Kamrup district, says her parents are ecstatic that she has joined the Delhi Police.
Setting an example
“Everyone in my family, including my parents, brother and sister, is a farmer. I got to know about the recruitment and thankfully, I cleared the tests,” she says.
Much as this new opportunity means to them, moving to Delhi has meant confronting entrenched prejudices. “When we tell them that we’re from the Delhi Police, they look at us with surprise because we look different,” says 22-year-old Marina from Mizoram.
Their entry into the police force will not only set an example for other women from the Northeast, it will also give them a sense of strength, the women tell this correspondent.
Sarju says, “A woman from Manipur will feel more at ease and more protected with me than she would with any other commando.”
The SWAT team includes 100 women, deployed in several units of the Delhi Police. The team is trained in weaponry and arms. and designed to be the first responders in a terrorism-related emergency.
But on a daily basis, the commandos are deployed in prominent locations in Delhi such as India Gate and other tourist attractions.
As the sun begins to set, the commandos say they only have one complaint: “It’s Christmas and New Year time, and we do not get leave to celebrate with our families!”