New Delhi, Aug 30 : The CRPF's canine soldier 'Cracker' on Sunday again sought the attention of the force when Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his monthly radio programme 'Mann Ki Baat' mentioned his supreme sacrifice.

Cracker was only two-and-a-half years old when he saved the lives of 45 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) men on April 7, 2017 when the troops of 170 Battalion of the paramilitary force were on area domination duty in the Modakpal forest in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh.

The Belgian Shepherd Malinois breed dog was leading the troops and alerted them by barking repeatedly when the area dominating team was moving on a 'kutcha' track in the deep forested area after sniffing an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). Canines of the Belgian Malinois breed were originally bred to be herding dogs. Today, they also work as police and military dogs, protection dogs, and are also loving family members.

Born on October 4, 2014, 'Cracker' saved the lives of his human colleagues, but got trapped in the Maoist net as the IED was fitted based on a pressure mechanism -- a technique commonly used by various Maoist wings in the forested areas in ambush operations against security forces in Naxal-hit states. The handler of Cracker, Constable Y.S. Avinash, only received a neck injury and some splinters in the blast.

While recollecting the memories, CRPF Deputy Inspector General (DIG) M. Dhinakaran told IANS that 'Cracker' cannot be forgotten ever in the history of the force as he saved the lives of 45 personnel.

"It was hot outside when 45 men of the 170 Battalion of CRPF were sent to for area dominating operation in the Modakpal forested area. 'Cracker' along with his handler Y.S. Avinash was leading the troops. Suddenly, Cracker started barking," Dhinakaran said.

The troops at once took their position in different places, but the dog was not moving and was trying to get out of the clutches of his handler Avinash. "Avinash could not understand why Cracker was trying to keep him away. Meanwhile, Cracker tried to move on and an IED exploded. The dog died on the spot, but he saved the life of Avinash, who only received injuries in his neck." Later, Dhinakaran said, it was learnt that the IED was fixed on a pressure mechanism.

As Avinash was emotionally attached with 'Cracker' since their joint 40 weeks' training, he could not come out of the shock for months. Involved in sniffing, assault and long range patrol training together, 'Cracker' and Avinash were too close and the incident almost made the Constable go silent for several months.

"Avinash went silent after the incident and stopped talking to people. The Commanding Officer sent Avinash for a long leave so that he could come out of the shock. His wife had then said he did not talk properly. He got emotionally hurt," Dhinakaran recalled when he talked to officers after the incident.

Prime Minister Modi mentioned Cracker's name in his 30-minute 'Mann Ki Baat' programme on Sunday, saying "our armed forces and security forces have many such brave dogs who not only live for the country but also sacrifice themselves for the country." "Remembering Cracker, Balram and Bhavana as well as the Indian Army dogs Sophie and Vida," the Prime Minister said, adding, "Two or three years ago in Chattisgarh's Bijapur, a sniffer dog 'Cracker' of CRPF attained martyrdom in an IED blast".

He said such canines have played a very important role in thwarting numerous bomb blasts and terrorist conspiracies. "Some time ago I got to know in great detail about the role of dogs in the security of the country and also got to hear many stories too." The Prime Minister also talked about Maharashtra Police's canine colleague 'Rocky' who had helped the force in solving over 300 cases, and he mentioned that dogs also have a significant role in disaster management and rescue missions.

(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at rajnish.s@ians.in)

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