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Veteran colonel soldiers on to salute Bapi as policemen play

Calcutta, Jan. 18: He wasnít invited for Bapi Senís shradh nor did he know him, but the retired army colonel chose to fly down from Patna all the same to pay homage to the sergeant.

Calcutta police, on the other hand, were too busy playing games to remember that a colleague had given up his life fighting drunken constables who were teasing a woman on New Yearís eve.

From the commissioner to the lowliest constable ó only one police officer showed up for the ceremony at the recreation club in Behala Government Quarters, where Bapi had lived. All were participating in the annual sports meet at the Alipore Bodyguard Lines, barely a five-minute drive from Bapiís home.

Only after the dayís fun and frolic was over did a Calcutta police representative squeeze out some time. Soumen Mitra, deputy commissioner, detective department, turned up at the Parnasree complex shortly after 7 pm with condolences for Bapiís family and, perhaps, a face-saver for his force.

But Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee hadnít forgotten: he mentioned the sergeantís sacrifice while addressing the police force at the end of the day. ďThe incident has undoubtedly made us bow (our heads) in shame and tarnished the image of Calcutta police. We have lost a policeman like Bapi and wonít get him back. We will have to remember him and what he has done,Ē the chief minister said.

For 83-year-old N.K. Sinha ó a colonel of Kumaon regiment who retired in 1969 ó Bapiís courage was inspiration enough. ďBeing a soldier, I have come to pay homage to the departed soul of a young policeman who laid down his life to save a girl from the clutches of his rogue colleagues. As soon as I heard that today was the last chance to salute this braveheart, I decided to come here,Ē he said.

When Sinha, crouching inconspicuously in a corner of the club, slowly rose and walked towards Bapiís photograph and bowed before it, the sergeantís family did not recognise him. Only later ó as he was getting ready to leave after lighting a candle in front of the picture ó did Sinha speak up.

He briefly spoke with Bapiís elder brother Anup and handed Dingo, the sergeantís 13-month son, Rs 100. ďDonít take it as financial help. It is a symbol of my honour to your fatherís sacrifice,Ē Sinha said.

Anup said invites had been sent to select people only. ďPeople do not need invitations. They are coming and paying their homage silently,Ē he said.

Only Calcutta police chose to do otherwise, with Amit Banerjee, the officer-in-charge of Tollygunge traffic guard, being the sole representative to show up during the day.

n Picture on Page 8

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