It took the lives of two commandos and merely 2.53 minutes to unmask the apathy of the ruling party to the plight of the men in uniform who fight to uphold democracy.
Maharashtra’s eastern-most corner and Maoist infested Gadchiroli district has been for over two decades a troubled region. At noon on March 23, when the district administration got together to pay final respect to the departed C60 commandos Naik Police Sepoy Doge Atram and Sepoy Swarup Amrutkar – both hail from Gadchiroli – who form a part of Maharashtra Police’s anti-Naxal special force, they realised they were alone. No politician thought it fit to attend the event which is otherwise marked with the presence of top ministers and spirited speeches towards motivating the fighting force and keeping the morale high. A video clip of the wreath laying ceremony accessed by makes it visibly clear.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who not only holds the ‘Home’ portfolio but also hails from the nearby Nagpur, gave the function a miss. His administration was not represented by even a junior minister or even an MLA. Incidentally, all the three MLAs of the Gadchiroli region, Krushna Gajbe from Armori, Ambarishrao Atram from Aheri and Dr Deorao Holi are BJP legislators with Ambarishrao, from an erstwhile royal family, having been appointed as the guardian minister for Gadchiroli district in December 2014. Ravikiran Deshmukh, advisor to Fadnavis said he will revert with CM’s response but no response was received.
When asked, Maharashtra’s Director General of Police, Sanjeev Dayal referred the matter to the Superintendent of Police, Gadchiroli, who later admitted to the fact. “We did send the invites to all concerned and the district collector was there but there was none from the political class. It could be on account of the assembly session currently underway plus we had the wreath laying the very next day following the deaths,” said Gadchiroli SP Sandip Patil.
Needless to say this has impacted the morale among the men. Some even mentioned the late RR Patil, who as Maharashtra’s Home Minister would make it a point to attend such ceremonies on most occasions. “What do I say to this? The implications of indifference will be there for all to see. The political class has to make up its mind,” said a policeman who did not wish to be quoted. “Is it too much to expect a so-called nationalist government to ensure a mere presence at such a solemn event?” asked a police officer who did not wish to be quoted.
A MOTHER SPEAKS OUT
Kalpana Amrutkar, mother of slain commando Swarup Amrutkar fell down at the site of her son’s wreath laying. She was held and comforted by the police. When reached, she had strong words for the political class. “I am told they were busy with the assembly session and thus nobody could come. Very well. Would they apply the same yardstick if their son would have been in my son’s place?” she asked. Speaking further she said, “I have three sons and they all work for the home department in Maharashtra what more can I give? I just hope people can be sensitive atleast on such occasions and also provide men like my son what they want to combat the Maoists. Many of my son’s colleagues told me about how my son was alive after being injured but helicopter never came to rescue him. This should not happen.”
Part of a three day, joint operation along the Maharashtra – Chhattisgarh border, the team had embarked on patrol post lunch by 4:30 pm and we’re ambushed. Both Atram and Amrutkar were hit in the chest during the opening burst that the Maoists fired. Subsequently, the C60 team retaliated and chased away the Maoists however on account of the approaching sun set and lack of night landing facility, no chopper could be launched to extricate them. While Atram died on the spot, Amrutkar was alive till 6:30pm.
It was learnt that neither of the commandos were wearing bullet proof vests. A senior officer revealed, “They are not in the habit since these vests are heavy and policing here is all about trekking.”