The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Prize & potshot for ‘courage’ cops

Ahmedabad, April 28: The Gujarat government has decided to confer bravery awards on as many as 400 policemen for their role in combating terrorists who attacked the Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar last year.

While some will get Rs 100 for doing little more than standing by during the incident, senior officials who rushed to the spot and risked their lives will receive Rs 25,000 each. The largesse adds up to Rs 19 lakh.

Included in the latter category of daredevils is R.B. Brahmbhatt, superintendent incharge of Gandhinagar district, who led the first police team into the complex after being alerted on the attack. Also among the top in the list are assistant commissioner G.L. Singhal and inspector V.R. Tolia who cordoned off the temple premises to minimise the damage and prevent the militants from escaping.

The move to honour police is being widely perceived as an attempt to boost the morale of the force and has met with criticism from various quarters, including top police circles.

The critics argue that the operation on September 24 last year was largely successful because of the National Security Guards’ commandos who shot dead the militants. Two commandos died in the skirmish.

As for the investigation into the attack, they point out that it has not proceeded beyond the identification of the taxi driver who allegedly took the terrorists to the temple.

Some senior police officers question the wisdom of conferring the awards on officers who did no more than spend a sleepless night on plastic chairs outside the temple. Some names on the list come as a surprise, they say, as these officers did nothing except sit back and watch the drama unfold.

One senior police officer named for the award denies the charge. “At one point of time, when senior police officers were holding a meeting in the premises of the temple, the terrorists fired. We narrowly escaped their bullets,” he recalled, requesting anonymity.

Refuting allegations of bias during recommendation of names, he said: “I was asked to give names. I never recommended my name. It was done by the state government which, I believe, took the decision after proper analysis of the incident and the role played by the police force.”

The government claims it wants to recognise the efforts of all those who participated in the operation. “Not that all 400 policemen did a great job. But this is a sort of encouragement,” said home minister Amit Shah.

Director general of police K. Chakravarthy, too, defended the decision to award 400 policemen. According to him, there was no further loss of life after the police reached the besieged temple and the terrorists were not allowed to escape till the NSC commandos arrived. That was possible only because the police cordoned off the temple, he asserted, pointing out that a large number of devotees were subsequently rescued and brought out safely.

The DGP said he was on the spot and, therefore, could gauge the crucial role played by the police. He, however, admitted that the decision to give away bravery awards to 400 policemen was essentially to boost their morale.

Though not everybody is happy with the decision, no one can question the courage displayed by the policemen who first ventured into the temple complex. Carrying only revolvers and .303 carbines they faced terrorists armed with AK56s.

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