‘Ashok Chakra is for bravery, not for getting killed’

February 22nd, 2009 - 12:44 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 22 (IANS) Former army officers, including a retired general, feel that most of the Ashok Chakras, the nation’s highest peacetime award for gallantry, awarded to policemen this year have been on emotional grounds, as they got the medal for “getting killed” during the Mumbai terror attacks rather than for “bravery”.

Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) chief Hemant Karkakre, Additional Commissioner of Police Ashok Kamte, Inspector Vijay Salaskar - all killed during the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks - and Delhi police inspector Mohan Chand Sharma, killed in a gun battle with militants at Batla House in Delhi, were among 11 Ashoka Chakra awardees this year .

“The awards were conceptualised for displaying exceptional bravery in the face of grave risk. Nobody has anything against the policemen who were shot dead. These people were just travelling and it is unfortunate that they came under fire of the militants. But to compare this with the bravery for which the awards are given, I think we may have diluted it,” former army chief General (retd) V.P. Malik told IANS.

On the same note, Malik says that the army’s recommendation to award Kirti Chakra, the second highest peacetime gallantry award, to Brigadier R.D. Mehta, who was killed in a bomb blast at the Indian embassy in Kabul last year, also did not fit the description of “conspicuous bravery”.

“The government had hurriedly announced the award for him. He was also unfortunate to have been killed in the blast but that cannot be considered as an act of bravery,” Malik said.

Echoing the same feeling, Major General (retd.) Afsar Karim said: “Awards are given for act of gallantry in peace time and not for getting killed.

“The awards (to the policemen) are a little misplaced. The government has made them (the awards) an emotive issue. But if you look at them dispassionately, no other person except the sub inspector (Tukaram Ombale) who helped capture Kasab (the lone surviving terrorist of the Mumbai attacks) did any act of bravery.”

Apart from the five, Meghalaya cop R.P. Diengdoh was awarded Ashok Chakra for an operation to neutralise 10 armed militants in the state’s jungles; Orissa Special Operations Group’s Assistant Commandant P.R. Satapathy got the medal for taking on 500 Maoists with a team of just 20 policemen.

National Security Guard commandos Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan and Havildar Gajender Singh were named for actions in flushing out terrorists holed up at Mumbai’s Taj hotel. Col. Jojan Thomas of Jat regiment and Havildar Bahadur Singh Bohra of 10 Para Commandos received the nation’s highest gallantry honour for counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir. All awards were given posthumously.

(Ritu Sharma can be contacted at ritu.s@ians.in)

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