‘I am an agonized police-wife fearing for my husband’s life’ (Comment)

December 7th, 2008 - 10:29 am ICT by IANS  

Narendra ModiThe aftermath of the terror attack on Mumbai raises fundamental questions: Is our police, which is the first line of defence, equipped to face such trained terrorists?The death of policemen on the fateful night of Nov 26 is a glaring example of political anarchy prevailing in this country. Mumbai Police lost three of its best officers. Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare, Additional Commissioner of Police Ashok Kamte and Sub-Inspector Vijay Salaskar were massacred by the fidayeen militants.

Ashok Kamte was my husband’s batch-mate, an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer of the 1989 batch. Reminicising about the days at the National Police Academy, I vividly remember these officers of the IPS undergoing their training with a sense of pride and √©lan. I remember Ashok as a team player with a great sense of humour. He was excellent in sports too.

Kamte was not the only one from my husband’s batch to die under militant attacks, Ved Prakash from the Nagaland cadre and Vandana Malik from the Manipur cadre were also killed while on duty by insurgents . Kamte was cremated with full police honours in Pune.

But he leaves for us many unanswered questions? Did he deserve to die at the hands of criminals because of incompetence of those who have been entrusted with running the country? Mumbai wasn’t a victim of ordinary intelligence failure; it was zero intelligence. The consequences were huge casualties. Present at his funeral were his two sons Rahul and Arjun and his wife Vinita. His young sons would now know what the word terrorists means in the literal sense.

It is important to vent our anger, to reject those who preened while our men died. Why are we so defenceless against these repeated outrages, who is responsible for them and who is responsible for stopping them? These are all unanswered life and death questions. Thus when terror strikes and police casualties are huge - the oft spoken words are ‘brave deaths in the line of duty’ and the life chakra starts again. The so-called policymakers at the helm of affairs hide behind the veil of anonymity.

Why is the seamless bureaucracy so insensitive to human apathy? Lack of political will has led to complete impotency of the system. Public anger against the frequent terrorist attacks have exposed the inept, inefficient and callous administrators who have failed in their duty. The security agencies in the country need repairing and overhaul. That is long overdue.

During Karkare’s funeral service the same politicians who had condemned him for the Malegaon blast investigation declared him the most honest police officer and a martyr of the soil. There was public revulsion when (Gujarat Chief Minister) Narendra Modi turned up in Mumbai after the carnage and announced that he would give Rs.1 crore to the ATS chief he had slandered in life.

Bomb blasts and killings are the order of life now. Terror prospers because the security agencies are constantly distracted by political diversion. The police are the most harassed lot in this as most of them are utilized for VIP duties, for our MPs and MLAs. With each terror strike, some of our outstanding officers fall prey to bullets, but the system still perpetrates. This time it is Vinita Kamte’s husband and the others who gave their lives for Mumbai to live on. This can happen to any one of us, BUT WHY?

Today the state police is grossly unprepared to deal with such terror attacks on the metropolis because of an acute shortage of weapons and ammunition. Official records show that for a force of well over 180,000, the home department procured a meagre 2,221 weapons, 577 for Mumbai and 1,644 for the rest of Maharashtra in the last six years. In the absence of a firing range and ammunition for practice, these policemen have not opened fire in the last 10 years in Mumbai.

As the wife of a senior IPS officer, I often wonder about his power to serve people; ‘ Service before Self’ stands so self defeating by itself. Are we waiting for more deaths? I am an agonized wife today fearing for my husband’s life. As an IPS officer he has taken a pledge to protect law and order in this country. I beseech the system to wake up and protect these men who dedicate their lives to this nation. Otherwise what can destroy India is a change in the spirit of its people away from secularism and peaceful coexistence that have been our greatest strength.

(Sharmila Banerjee is the wife of an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer who belongs to the batch that slain Maharashtra police official Ashok Kamte was from. The views expressed are personal. She can be contacted at sharmila.banerjee@jsw.in)

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