Defying Naxals’ diktats, about six thousand tribal youths participated in the first ever army recruitment rally organised at the Priyadarshani stadium in Jagdalpur, the district headquarters of Naxalite infested Bastar district of neighbouring Chhattisgarh.
The rally was held on May 2 and 3. Colonel Mohandasan P, director recruiting of Army Recruiting Office, Mhow, who was entrusted the task of holding the rally, told Hindustan Times on his return here recently, “This rally was not only the first such recruitment drive of the Army but of any Central Police Organisation or state police as the area is considered highly sensitive.”
He said due to Naxalite presence and threats, negligible turnout was expected for such rallies. “No organisation holds such rallies outside of the state capital Raipur,” he added.
After publicity of the proposed army recruitment rally at Jagdalpur, the Naxalites had even put up leaflets asking the youths not to participate in the rally.
According to Col Mohandasan even Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh had assured him of all possible security for holding the three-day rally. As a result, 100 SAF jawans were deployed and they stood guard outside the Jagdalpur stadium.
Col Mohandasan said that almost all the boys who participated in the rally told him about Naxalite warnings of dire consequences if they attended the rally or supporting the government machinery in any way. Some of them even said they had risked the lives of their families by attending the recruitment rally.
Candidates from Dantewada, Narayanpur, Bastar, Kanker and Bijapur participated in the rally. Of the 6000, only about 2000 made it to the selection rounds. And after clearing the physical and written tests, 282 youth were found fit to join the army.
Army Recruitment director J S Gujral was personally present during the recruitment process. Army Medical Officer Captain R R Polgaonkar admitted to the exemplary fitness standards of Bastar, which he has not seen anywhere.