When Home Minister Rajnath Singh formally inducted 36 women commandos to be part of the Delhi Police, India got its first all-woman Special Weapons and Tactics Squad (SWAT) team for anti-terrorist operations.
Delhi Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik had mooted the idea in 2017 when he had said, “Yes, this is one of our important initiatives. We feel the women personnel of the Delhi Police should take a leading role in critical situations as well, and we are working towards it.” This time round after the formal induction had been made, he said, "The team is ready to take on hostage crises and terror strikes in urban areas.”
What is the importance of Swat?
SWAT commandos are equipped with the latest weapons and security apparatus, and are expected to be ready for action within moments of an alarm being raised. The SWAT team in the capital was formed in 2009 in the wake of the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai the previous year.
The Delhi Police currently already had a dedicated team for anti-terror operations and tackling hardened criminals consisting of 200 men. With this new induction, India also became one of the few countries to have an all-women SWAT team.
How it all started
Last year when the Delhi Police was recruiting 7,307 personnel from across the country 2,424 vacancies had been reserved for women. The Delhi Police Commissioner had felt that the commando team could come from the women who were being enlisted.
In April 2017, 130 and odd women from the Northeast had arrived to join the Delhi Police. After they completed a 10-month course, the group was asked how many of them 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.
After a rigorous training schedule of about 15 months, under specialists from across India and abroad, 36 women commandos of them from north eastern states were inducted into the squad. “The move will take the size of the team to 240,” a senior police officer had then said. “The induction of women will begin with the recruitment of the new batch of personnel in the force. They will be trained and equipped along with their male counterparts. Their deployment will also be on the same lines across the city.”
The members of this all-women SWAT team received better ratings at the Police Training College in Jharoda Kalan than their male counterparts.
As tough as nails
One of the officers mentioned that apart from recruitment training, the commandos undergo a 10-month exercise similar to that of the NSG. The 36-member all-women Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) team has been trained by the NSG for anti-terrorism duty under the Delhi Police's Special Cell. This training is provided in Jharoda Kalan, where the commandos learn how to undertake complex operations during terror attacks at crowded markets, residential complexes or government premises. Adept at climbing multi-story buildings and carrying rescue operations in all sorts of situations, these women can do it all.
It could be a winter afternoon and the young ladies, most in their early 20s, are warming up and taking on four constables in a mock combat. That could be followed by climbing a four-storey building with just ropes and terror attack drill in a building in which a ‘hostage’ has been held could be a wonderful simulation to get as close to a real situation as possible.
Even the group of commandos walking up the stairs discreetly with guns and revolvers in their hands and neutralizing the terrorist is an exercise done with utmost seriousness and fervor.
What they are expected to do
At any given point of time, some personnel of the SWAT team are always on duty in the city. The commandos are deployed at various strategic locations such as India Gate, Parliament, New Delhi railway station and Indira Gandhi International Airport. Those who aren’t, get the 15-day training by rotation to maintain their skills and edge.
A Pride of Place
India's first all-women SWAT team from the north east beamed with pride as it provided security cover to the historic Red Fort on Wednesday on August 10th 2018. 13 members are from Assam, rest of them hail from Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Manipur. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his Independence Day speech, had said the government has brought Delhi close to the north east and the region has become an inspiration for everyone. In fact the Home Minister had even said that the women SWAT team could be a regular feature at the Independence Day and Republic Day Celebrations every year.
But then how well are they equipped?
They have AK-47 rifles, MP5 machine guns, Glock 17 or 26 pistols and corner shot devices for enhanced night vision. Moreover they are equipped with a pencil torch, bulletproof helmet, bulletproof jacket, a cutter and a commando dagger. They also wear special knee and elbow pads for protection during covert operations.
The women commandos were also trained in Krav Maga, which is a self-defence system developed for the Israel Defence Forces, the police said. Members of this team are experts in building interventions, counter ambush and VVIP security, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) (Special Cell) Pramod Kushwaha had said.
Currently, the team comprises personnel from the rank of constable to inspector, and is headed by an ACP-level officer. The force also plans to give another ACP and an inspector-level officer to the team.
The officer said that they also plan to change the pattern of the SWAT uniforms so there is a clear distinction from local police. Police have approached some designers to suggest these changes.
And what did the women inducted themselves have to say?
Sumata Rabta, a member of the team, said it has been her life-long dream to protect the country. "I will always remember this day when I got the opportunity to provide security on one of the key events in the country," Rabta said.
Dipti Barman, another member, said to hear the prime minister speak on her team made her beam with pride. "I can feel the responsibility and my team would give its complete support in fulfilling every task assigned to it," Barman said. She hoped people change their perception towards the citizens of the north east and realise their capability.
Another team member, Mihnhunsa, felt proud to don the uniform. "Even though it is difficult task to change people's set notions about our region, we can try to do so through our uniform," she said.
Kanmani, 23, from Assam’s Kamrup district, says her parents are ecstatic that she has joined the Delhi Police. “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.
The achievement for the country
When you think of the rigorous training regime and the relentless effort required to become a SWAT commando, you’d know why there aren’t too many women SWAT commandos around the world.
With women forming just 7% of the police force in India, the formation of an all-women SWAT team is a massive achievement.
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.
Emotional thoughts about their situation to some
With all of them being from the North East in this batch, it has also brought out some emotional misgivings.
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.
Based on the recent years of the past when North East women had been targets of some horrific crimes in the capital one of them, Sarju expressed, “A woman from Manipur will feel more at ease and more protected with me than she would with any other commando.”
Indian women are the same across the country. Today the women from the North East have started a trend. Tomorrow women from other regions will follow. And then more and more and more will keep joining till a female entering a currently male bastion will no longer be seen differently. But as common- place.
The Indian female is as good as any from any other from the top nations of the world and has shown what she is capable of, given the opportunity. This is just one more feat that goes to show that the Indian woman proves herself several times when she achieves something – that she is as good as her Indian male counterpart, at times better, can compete and succeed against other female competition from overseas, is as tough as they come despite her traditional make-up and bent of mind.