Not only gallantry awards

It has to be a part of a comprehensive reform process.

One can only agree with the spirit and the underlying argument behind my fellow blogger at INI, Rohit’s counter-counter-blogpost to my counter-blogpost about his questioning the award of Ashok Chakra to Hemant Karkare.

…gallantry award recipients should be chosen for just that–true bravery.

How does one define “true bravery” in an objective manner? That is the question not many have been able to answer satifactorily till date. Even the Ketchup Colonels and Siachen video films have not been able to goad the Indian defence services into producing an objective criterion for their gallantry awards.

Anything else would mean asking hard questions right from why the cops were so ill-prepared. Much more convenient to declare them as brave and worthy of awards!

From the televised war at Kargil to jungles of Kupwara, too many sacrifices only point to one fact — the system has completely failed. Gallantry awards are a minuscule part of that failed system. They can’t be fixed in isolation.

If our gallantry awards are not to go down that path, then it is important that we raise our voice.


Exactly. Reform the archaic system that uses these processes from a colonial era. Now. Then only can we stop treating gallantry awards as rewards from the state or a sop to a fallen soldier or policemen from their uniformed brethren — exemplifying a perfect patron-client relationship. Else the staff at the Taj and Oberoi would have perhaps featured higher on the list of gallantry award winners this Republic day.

As this particular case has shown, pointing out one Karkare and creating controversy around him does little towards reforming the system that gives these awards. The controversy further corrupts the process and denigrates the award by increasing the number of awardees from nine to eleven. It is not the first time that the gallantry awards have been compromised. And it will not be the last time that this is going to happen. Unless there is a root-and-branch reform of the system that breeds, supports and justifies such compromises. It is the hardest thing to do but that is what this nation and its governmental setup needs.


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14 Responses to Not only gallantry awards

  1. Kaps January 24, 2009 at 11:53 am #

    It is a real confusing issue with regards to the awards. When the govt of the day decides to present an award to someone, it has to be completely on merit. This is not to say that the people who have been chosen for awards this time do not deserve it or were lesser than brave. The point here is that when it comes to presenting highest awards of the state, there can’t be any room for doubt in anybody’s mind. Shri Karkare’s is a case where there are people for it as well as against it. It would be interesting to know what is Mr Antulay’s take on this.

    Highest awards must be bereft of any controversy and political/bureaucratic maneuvering behind the nominations must not be allowed to influence such an award. True that there are past instances where awards have been presented to people who did everything to bring disgrace to themselves by getting nominated for such awards. But such incidents must be used as lessons by the polity and not used as a trend setting phenomenon. Once a process like that of presenting an award becomes tainted, it is always going to get sniggers from the common man irrespective of the bravery displayed by the nominee.

  2. annon47 January 24, 2009 at 2:37 pm #

    Gallantary awards can NOT be given out of compassion or pity on someone or for that matter due public opinion/media hype.If we go by the present logic,every single soldier killed in action in anti insurgency ops should get the Ashoka Chakra!!At best Karkare & likes should be given monetory compensation.There was’nt any gallantary whatsoever in the action in which Karkare & party were killed.

  3. samy January 25, 2009 at 11:29 am #

    The Mr Hemant Karkare was killed is no act of Bravery that is for sure this only a political mileage and sympathies if Mr Prag (Anti AF). Time and again pointing about Ketchup colonels (My question to Mr Prag – Did they get Awarded or punished? result is there to answer) So in all honesty like those ketchups Hemant Karkare doesn’t deserve to get one. If hat is the Criteria Mr Prag then very single killed by the terrorist needs to be awarded irrespective of his job specially those innocents sleeping on railways platforms, inside their houses b’coz they didnot had the weapons to fight. so they are more BRAVE than MR H Karare because he was fully equiped to fight still he could not fight. (as we heard Constable Jadhav on TV). So Mr Prag stop making HERO of a person whom 99% Indians (including Mr Antulay) Think was not there to fighting those terrorist.


    • Pragmatic January 25, 2009 at 11:37 am #


      I have clarified many a times that it is not about Karkare. Please read the blogpost again. As far as the Ketchup Colonel is concerned, his case for reinstatement was taken up by the Army with the government.

  4. voyager January 25, 2009 at 3:52 pm #

    The over generosity of the Govt has been surprising.

    Now the wife of the Late policeman Mr Shashank Shinde who died during 26/11 at CST is questioning why her husband didn’t get the Ashok Chakra?

    I had (before the declaration) said that “a life sacrificed in the national interest is always worthy of being given the benefit of doubt no matter what the circumstances, rank, cast or motivation”. But even I have been disappointed with the Govt’s casual ways and wish to retract my earlier statement. This is stretching things a bit too far and unfair.

    The only lesson we are trying to propagate to all our forces is that “one doesn’t merely have to sacrifice his life – one has to do it in style and in full media glare”.

    Sad example indeed.

  5. HariC January 26, 2009 at 8:45 pm #

    Shashank Shinde – Alone, with a 9mm pistol, No BPJ, went running into the station on foot. Got the KC

    Karkare/ Kamte / Salaskar – Seven man team, AK-47s, BPJs. Got the AC

    Who deserved the Ashok Chakra more? Seriously – the three Ashok Chakras are clearly pity and compassion awards. The awards started losing their meaning after the parliament attack.

    the silver lining in the cloud is Tukaram Omble.

  6. voyager January 26, 2009 at 10:16 pm #


    Hope you heard the citations being read out on TV. They all collectively managed to injure one terrorist. It fell upon one of the wives to prove that actually.

    Sad not from the point of view of who got it and who didn’t; rather its sad because when we dilute our highest standards thus – we sow seeds of doubt and scepticism in the hearts of the jawan/policeman on the forefront.

    Let’s hope its not repeated.

  7. depps January 26, 2009 at 11:00 pm #

    Hey guys,

    Seeing these comments, I am constrained to reiterate the following facts, which u guys seem to miss often.

    Firstly in the early period of 26 Nov, it was widely believed (maybe too difficult to believe) that this firing is a gang war. And if u know of Mumbai gang war, they can do anything except target police man. This was understanding of almost the entire police brass and also the media. Hence it was reported at such.

    It was in those circumstances that these guys became a target and perhaps Mr Omble also, who thought that Kasab or Imran would not fire at him.
    Some how after 2 months, people have started imagining that all these people knew that they were fighting with trained and well equipped militants and even then they took on militants. Which in my opinion is not entirely true.
    Even NSG did not deliberately take any casualties or to put it bluntly – they did not rescue hostages, whatever cas of Gajendra and Sandeep happened were also what I would call as accidents. NSG operated as if there were no hostages…
    This is not to demean or disrespect any deaths, but these are facts. And eulogozing dead people by distorting facts is the same as falsehood.

    AC, KC are executive decisions of Govt. No one can dispute that. But I suggest that when u argue as to who got and who did not, please examine the situation based on facts.

  8. An old Friend January 27, 2009 at 10:30 am #

    Can RTI help?

    Can I request our resident advocate to help frame an RTI through which the taxpayers can ask the govt to explain the criteria for selection of the AC winners?

    @ Depps, Voyager,
    Nowadays executive decisions can be questioned by the citizens in this country. Merit needs to be the sole criteria.

    Enough of this jagirdari!! Abject shamelessness!

  9. swordarm February 2, 2009 at 8:32 am #

    Discussion on this issue seems to have been closed, but I would like to point out a fact that has come to my notice now. Apparently the government has not carried out due dilligence prior to awarding the Ashok Chakra to the Policemen.

    Criterion for receipients of the Ashok Chakra, as obtained from the Army’s official website are as under:-

    Ashoka Chakra

    1. Awarded for most conspicuous bravery, or some act of daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice otherwise than in the face of the enemy. The decoration may be awarded posthumously.

    2. If a recipient of the Chakra shall again perform such an act of gallantry as would have made him or her eligible to receive the Chakra, such further act of gallantry shall be recognized by a Bar to be attached to the riband by which the Chakra is suspended and, for every subsequent act of gallantry, an additional Bar shall be added and every such Bar, a replica of the Chakra in miniature shall be added to the riband when worn alone.

    3. Officers, men and women of all ranks of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, of any of the Reserve Forces, of the Territorial Army, Militia and of any other lawfully constituted forces.

    4. Members of the Nursing Services of the Armed Forces.

    5. Civilian citizens of either sex in all walks of life, other than members of Police Forces and of recognized Fire Services.

    6. Rs 1400/-pm and each bar to the decoration Rs 1400/-pm to all recipients.

    The reason for this is that these services have their own established awards such as the President’s Medal for bravery. Awarding these to the concerned martyrs would have been the right step, as this would also have appropriately enhanced the prestige of these awards, placing them in their rightful place at par with the parallel military honours.

  10. An old Friend February 2, 2009 at 11:28 am #

    Now 15 Ashok Chakras for the martyrs at Gadchiroli. Please!

    God! You f’d up big time, pals.

  11. I Samson February 3, 2009 at 12:57 am #

    Besides ASI Omble, it is only Inspector Shashank Shinde who deserves to get the highest peace time gallantry award. Status/ranks appear to be the only norm followed while granting the reward. Has any one realised the mockery that a police officer has been awarded “Ashok Chakra” for taking the job of a driver and for locking his subordinates including gunmen in the dicky of the qualis jeep. As if this was not enough, noise is now being made for an enquiry as to why the ak 47 gun allotted to him earlier was withdrawn. Would any one like to throw light on this issue as to what this officer would have done with the gun when his hands were engaged in holding the steering wheel of the jeep, To top this all the civic authorities have not lagged behind in adding their share of stupidity by felicitating the officer by naming a public garden after him. I have nothing against the officer who died and his family who is now suffering, they deserve full sympathy but that does not mean that the highest peace time gallantry award of the country is demeaned to such an extent. It will certainly be an insult to those who have actually fought for the country , laying down their lives while exhibiting devotiohn to duty, courage and gallantry of the highest order. George Bernard Shaw’s quote on martyrdom must have been in a lighter vein but has now become a reality.. he had said : “martyrdom is the only way in which a man can become famous without ability”. How true!

  12. ajitsingh February 3, 2009 at 3:30 pm #

    Karkare,Amte, Salaskar were killed by the terrorist’s bullets when they were in their vehicle and they did not fired a single bullet on that terrorist. I do not understand what type of brave action took place. If this is the criteria for awarding Ashok Chakra then every Indian soldier who is taking part in insurgency action in J&K, North-East deserves Ashok Chakra. What a pity that for votes, the dignity of Ashok Chakra has been degraded. This type of distribution of Highest peace time gallantry award is an insult to all those previous winners of Ashok Chakra who spilled their blood for motherland. God save mother India.

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