Why No Award for 26/11 Bomb Disposal Squad?: PIL

A public interest litigation has questioned the Union Government's reluctance to confer gallantry awards on 19 officers of Mumbai police's bomb disposal squad for their performance during the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

"On that fateful day (26/11/2008), these officers were not insured as the premium was not paid to the insurance company (by the government)," said petitioner Ketan Tirodkar in his reply to government's affidavit on the issue.

The reply, filed today, termed the Centre's terse, one-line rejection of Maharashtra government's proposal to honour the squad members, that too four years after the terror attack, as "ruthless".

As per the rules, the proposal should have been decided within two years, it added.

Tirodakar also pointed out that IPS officer Vishwas Nangre-Patil did not figure in the list sent by the state for bravery awards, but he was honoured with an award on January 26 this year.

"Indian Government cannot treat deserving persons in such manner, to give them an impression that they do not belong to this country," the reply said.

The officers of bomb disposal squad risked their lives while defusing hand-grenades and RDX boxes at Trident and Taj hotels under the terrorists' fire, Tirodkar said.

Also no reason was given by the Centre while rejecting the names of police driver Nivrutti Gawhane, who had been shot outside Leopold restaurant during the attack, he said. Same was the case of assistant police inspector Rajendra Kadam who had accompanied the then Mumbai Police Commissioner Hasan Gafoor to Trident Hotel and fought a battle with militants on top floors, saving life of an injured lady whom he, along with colleagues, took to hospital, the reply said.

This woman had even written to government appreciating the efforts of the officer and others.

Maharashtra government had informed the High Court last year that its proposal to give awards to police officials and members of bomb disposal squad was rejected by the Centre.

The state had recommended inspector Steven Mathews Anthony and 18 others of the bomb disposal squad for the police medal for gallantry.

Only four police officers -- Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte, Vijay Salaskar and Tukaram Ombale -- were given the Ashok Chakra posthumously.

"Several other officers like Sadanand Date, Vijay Khandekar and Arun Jadhav also showed bravery during the attacks. They did not lose their lives but had fought with terrorists," the petition states, contending that Karkare, Kamte and Salaskar had not fought per se as they had been killed in an ambush in the first few hours of the attacks.

"If they have been awarded Ashok Chakra, then there are several other policemen who deserve the award more," it says.

As many as 164 people were killed and at least 308 were injured during the attacks between November 26 to 29, 2008.

The petition would come up for hearing next after two weeks.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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