After a winter spell of stonepelting, security forces in Kashmir Valley are gearing up for a second round of unrest in the summer. Intelligence agencies anticipate an increase in cross-LoC infiltration as well as a spike in local law and order problems. But coming to the soldiers' aid are not just their weapons but also indigenously made body protectors to keep sticks and stones at bay.
Even as Kashmir battled a bitter winter, the Central Reserve Police Force shopped for "bloody summer months". The list includes 20,000 full-body protectors, 3,000 polycarbonate shields, improved helmets, tear-smoke protectors and modified pellet guns.
Till last year, the CRPF men only had foam-based chest protectors and leg guards. Now, an ordnance factory has designed the new body protectors.
SPECIFICATIONS OF THE ARMOUR
The specifications for the armour include protection from stone-pelting, knife and acid attacks, special resistant qualities to deal with Molotov cocktails and fire projectiles. About 70,000 of its personnel are stationed in J&K. A soldier posted in Tral of the state's Pulwama district said, "The body protectors give us better protection against stones and renewed confidence."
Sweating, as he donned the uniform, the soldier said, "The weight is not so much of an issue, as protection is. There are perforations in the uniform to make it breathable."
"The body suits will improve our visibility," said another soldier who served in Srinagar in 2010 and faced the first bouts of stonepelting. "Our response will be better and use of force will be less."
CRPM INJURED BECAUSE OF STONE PELTING
While the CRPF has found criticism over the use of pellet guns, it has faced the wrath of the stone-throwers as well.
Around 2,400 of its personnel were injured in stone-pelting incidents last year and the force is going all out to protect its men this summer. Most of the injuries were to the head. This year the CRPF has introduced improved helmets to protect the men.
The full-body armour will include a chest protector, elbow pad, shin guard, upper arm protector, shoulder pad to secure shoulders and neck, groin protector, forearm guard and thigh guard. Apart from medical treatment to soldiers, the home ministry will provide Rs 2,500 for minor injuries and Rs 7,500 for grievous injuries to CRPF personnel hurt during stone-pelting in Kashmir.