Peacekeeping history is being scripted in the unlikeliest of places: Wazirabad, where 125 women CRPF officers are training to take part in UN operations in Liberia. The officers, drawn from units across the country, will make up a specialised unit known as a Formed Police Unit (FPU). An all-woman FPU is unprecedented, and the UN hopes it will send a powerful message to other contributing countries.
Led by Commandant Seema Dhaundia, the contingent will leave for Liberia in October. They are currently being trained in baton wielding, lobbing teargas shells and handling weapons, besides unarmed combat. The fully equipped 'blue helmets' will be armed with pistols, INSAS rifles and AK-47s. The exact role of the all-women unit will be finalised before CRPF director-general J.K. Sinha visits New York on September 15-16.
Specialised units under the UN banner have traditionally been employed as a rapid reaction force-they are better armed than regular police, and trained in crowd control. Having women on UN missions is thought to ease access to vulnerable groups in post-conflict situations.
"We think it's a breakthrough that India has expressed its willingness to deploy these trained and capable female officers for our Liberia mission," a top UN official said.
FPUs are cheaper to deploy than regular military units. Also, their deployment sends a message to populations of post-conflict countries that the UN is demilitarising, while maintaining a credible force that is simultaneously helping to build local police capacity.