Police perform thousands of valorous acts so that you can continue to live your daily life.

On Police Commemoration Day set aside cynicism and honour the sacrifices of our policemenPTI
Blog Police Friday, October 21, 2016 - 17:45

By Rema Rajeshwari

It ​is a typical morning in Telangana's Mahbubnagar ​district – quiet, and slow in pace. 

​Policemen from the ​Armed ​Reserve are gearing up for the Smriti Parade​, which pays tribute to policemen who have died while in service; the chief bugler Krishnaiah is ​rehearsing “The Last Post”.

His frame is frail, but his eyes ​more than make up for it. They are intense, taking in the pain of a whole generation of his fallen friends – ​police personnel who died in the line of duty facing left-wing extremist violence in Mahbubnagar district, which ​has spanned over a period of 30 years.

Krishnaiah is trying to get his notes right – 75 seconds of music to the dead, infused by a mass of memories –, more mournful. Once the music of the empire, a bugle call is widely used by the forces across the country. 

I am trying to shift my focus away to the endorphin rush a morning jog gives. But I cannot. Even the dry Gulmohar-scented wind is gloomy. Their memory is our only keepsake. I have this unbidden sadness. Have we done enough for them? Maybe not.

My mind goes back to a frigid morning in Hotsprings. It ​is 2012. I am clad in my ceremonial attire​,​ waiting to lay a wreath ​over the memorial of​ ​ten ​men of the Central Reserve Police Force who gave their lives in service to the country on a freezing 1959 October night. 

I ​am here as a member of the All India Police Expedition. Every year the Indo-Tibetan Border Force (ITBF) organizes an expedition of handpicked officers of all ranks from various police units across the country, to pay homage to those 10 CRPF Policemen killed in unequal combat with heavily armed Chinese troops in the autumn of 1959.

That engagement, which took place at a height of 15,300 feet above sea level, with temperatures dipping well below zero, was a watershed moment in our national timeline, leading upto the 1962 war. Ever since, each October 21 is observed as Police Commemoration Day to mark the supreme sacrifice of these brave hearts. 

I distinctly recall th​e 30-minute ceremony in 2012. My cold-resistant Munnar bones can't stand the biting Ladakhi wind, leaving me with a trembling body and a weeping soul. Our teammate from Sikkim, Tim Tenzing Sherpa​,​ hums an uplifting patriotic number to keep our spirits up, while we line up to s​alute the names carved on that ​memorial.

While the “Shaheed Pustak Tolis” carry the “Martyrs book” through the ceremonial Smriti Parades every October 21 at the Police parade grounds, and the names of the fallen brave hearts are read out loud, there are policemen out there, still falling to the bullets of the enemy, or the wrath of the unruly mob.

They die not just on the field, but off-field​ too, with a sizeable number dying due to various diseases – thanks to erratic schedules, stress-induced ailments and the changing socio-political climate. Just days ago, one Sub-Inspector killed himself with his service revolver in Malur in Shimoga district of Karnataka.  And in Rajouri, our jawans are being fired at.

Death has a texture in this country. The Indian collective-patriotic-conscience comes alive only when we hear of tragic loss of life. How much do we care about the same brave souls while they are still alive risking their very existence?

Every year, this time around, our martyrs come alive – smiling on flex boards and banners on police station buildings and in vernacular dailies. But the irony of our times is that the whole country knows the name of the militant leader who died in the Kashmir valley recently.

But how many of us can recollect the name of the J&K Police driver who was killed mercilessly by an angry mob that pushed his mobile bunker vehicle into the river Jhelum ​in south Kashmir? How many of us remember the young Sub-Inspector of Police Siddaiah, who fell to the bullets of suspected SIMI extremists in Janakipuram village of Nalgonda district in Telangana on the unsuspecting morning of April 7, 2015.

That very day, Siddaiah’s wife delivered a beautiful baby boy. Can that little boy ever celebrate his birthday, the way his friends would do each year? We lose many Feroz Ahmeds and Siddaiahs to violence not only at the border, but also in other places that don’t qualify for space in mainstream media. Can we limit ourselves to just two-minute silences at October 21 Smriti parades? 

A closer look at the global police staffing patterns gives a clear indication about the grim picture of police-population ratio in India. The UN-recommended ratio mandates that there must be 222 policemen for every one lakh people. According to a communiqué from the Ministry of Home Affairs, instead of the 22.6 million police personnel required to cater to the 2-billion-plus population of the country, we just have 17.2 million policemen. This means that, on an average, over 60% of police personnel work for more than 15 hours a day, including weekends and public holidays. 

“Crime in India-2015” data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) clearly indicates that police personnel suffered more injuries than civilians in incidents of violence. A whopping 737 police personnel were killed in 2015 alone – 38 in various terrorist and extremist operations, 36 in anti-LWE (Left–wing extremism) operations, three in anti-dacoity and other raids, two were killed by riotous mobs, 39 by various criminals, three while on border duties and 616 in accidents. 

Additionally, 2,356 died an untimely death while in service and 167 committed suicide due to reasons ranging from illness, stress-induced depression etc.

Moreover, 3,486 personnel were injured in 2015, a sizeable number among them crippled for life. 136 were injured in terrorist and extremist operations, 45 in anti-LWE operations, 44 in anti-dacoity and other raids, 1501 by violent mobs, 1145 by criminals, 8 while on border duties and 607 in accidents.    

When noted bollywood actor Akshay Kumar tweeted a video on September 26, praising the heroic act of Constable Pavan Tayde of Lonawala Police Station, over a million Indian patriotic hearts brimmed with pride. Praises poured in. But there are thousands of valorous acts of numerous unsung heroes, as part of everyday policing, which don't reach our selective conscience.

So, the next time, you look at a traffic constable with fury in your eyes for stopping you for not wearing a helmet, acknowledge the fact that he is in an eternal battle with killer pollutants just to keep your life expectancy up and running. He doesn’t need to be at the borders to be a martyr.

Cynicism has never built anything durable, nor left a legacy. So, have the generosity of spirit to smile at him. Yes! Such gesture do matter to us. And it’s your life he’s worried over, not his.

And this Commemoration Day, let us nobly recognize those unsung bravehearts who fall, so that you as a nation can stand. Let us set ourselves free of the pre-conceived generalised notions of an average policeman, and connect with our inner wisdom to see the richness of everyday sacrifices he makes.

Bugler Krishnaiah is sounding “The Rouse” – which turns the two minutes' silence into a vigil, with the hope that, there will be a day when the living and dead arise together. As we frantically gather the relics of the fallen, let us put our hands over hearts for the gallant khaki-capped men and women and say a little prayer. Rest in peace!

Rema Rajeshwari, IPS, is Superintendent of Police, Mahbubnagar District, Telangana.

Note: The views expressed here are the personal opinions of the author.

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