They work in utmost secrecy, sometimes even dying in the line of duty in some distant part of the world. Yet, year after year, young men from the Indian Army try desperately to enter the elite para special forces, which sees 90-95 percentage of attrition, during the selection process itself. Come this August 15, Discovery Channel will reveal, in its hour-long show, Indian Paratroopers: Earning the Badge, the grueling selection process of the Indian Para special forces. “Some of these elite soldiers, come from little known towns and villages in our country. We thought it was the right time to honour them,” begins Prabhu Asgaonkar, the producer of the show, who had to spend 15 months in production, with a good portion of that spent on research, as little was known about the forces outside defence circles.
In the show, which was filmed in an undisclosed location, 23 men–all in their early 20s are pushed to physical and mental extremes with tasks like 100-kilometre marathons, uphill sprints, cold water swims, all while fighting days of sleep deprivation. The men are also put through gruelling training programmes, which require them to demolish structures, evade capture, survive in the wild, give emergency medical aid and converse in a range of languages. “The whole exercise is a roller coaster ride from hell, where men break down, but the strongest succeed in earning the precious maroon beret and The Balidaan Badge (the winged blade of sacrifice),” says Asgaonkar.
Thanks to Hollywood, Indian viewers know more about Navy Seals and British SAS over their very own maroon beret paratroopers. Not any lower than their American and British counterparts, these ghost operatives regularly work behind national borders to foil terrorist attacks and safeguard national interests with the latest being a counter insurgency operation in Myanmar. “Indian Para ranks amongst the very best special forces operatives in the world as they serve in the most difficult terrains including the Siachen Glacier–the highest battlefield on earth,” says, Asaonkar, adding that this coming out of the special forces will finally enable us to add these men to popular culture.
August 15, 9 pm. On Discovery Channel
— P Peter