Sitting inside her camp at Mujhaid Manzil in the Pathar Masjid area of downtown Srinagar, the bespectacled officer looks like the girl next-door at first sight. But behind Kanchan Yadav’s benign visage is a tough-as-nails officer who has made a mark in the male-dominated security operations in the strife-torn state.
Yadav, the 28-year-old Assistant Commandant of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), is the only woman paramilitary officer deployed in the sensitive old city to tackle the stone-pelting mobs and to maintain law and order in this notoriously volatile separatist stronghold.
“I remember the day when my company was withdrawing from Jamalatta. A mob of stone-pelters suddenly surfaced and started shouting at me. Seeing me, these mobsters targeted me personally hurling some abuses to provoke me. But I kept calm and moved on because the safety of my troops was paramount,” says Yadav.
Incidentally, Yadav had volunteered to deal with the law and order situation in the sensitive down town in 2015. A native of Delhi, which is much reviled in these parts, the paramilitary officer has seen considerable action on the streets of Srinagar after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s killing last year. From tackling stone-pelting mobs to guarding the CRPF camps to keeping an eye on trouble-makers, Yadav has seen it all, earning the sobriquet ‘Lady Singham’ in her battalion, a reference to a popular Bollywood hit about a upright cop.
But then, dealing with security issues is something she has grown up with. A third-generation security forces officer, Yadav, a 2010 UPSC Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) batch officer, was fascinated with the uniform since childhood: her mother is the Assistant Commandant of CRPF, currently posted in Manipur on election duty, her father retired from the Indian Air Force, while her maternal grandfather retired from the CRPF. And she is married to an Indian Navy officer.
“Soldiering is in our DNA. I chose CRPF because it helps you to explore new things. The support of my seniors and the public has helped me in dealing with the situations I confront during the course of my duty. There is a different perception in public about female officers. That is why when I am deployed on the streets, women and children are excited to shake hands with me. May be they are seeing a woman officer for the first time on the streets,” she says.
In fact, after marriage, she opted to stay back in Kashmir to complete her tenure. “I was given an option to be posted where my husband is deployed. But I chose to stay back and complete my tenure,” she said.
Her first post-training posting was in Kashmir when she was posted with 44 Battalion of CRPF and deployed in Narbal in February 2014. She moved to Srinagar in June 2015, where she opted for law-and-order duties.
What’s more, there is no female subordinate in her company based in the heart of the old city.
The hallmark of her tenure in Kashmir, says Yadav, has been not just developing a tough image, but also cementing a good rapport with the people in her area. “I used to visit the homes of families neighbouring my camp. There were so many protests last year, people were shouting slogans from mosques near our camp. People used to gather outside our camp but they never stormed the camp,” says the real-life Lady Singham.