Today is acknowledged as Police Commemoration Day, and as citizens we should feel eternally grateful to all the cops out there, risking their lives so that we can exist peacefully. This heartfelt tribute and message comes from top cop Harssh Podar, the Superintendent at Beed district, who is also a qualified lawyer from the University of Oxford, UK.
“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him… But here I am to speak what I do know. You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?”
– Act III, Scene II, Julius Caesar October 21st- Once more this day dawns, bringing with it a pall of stoic grief and withheld tears. This year this date coincides with a celebration of democracy in Maharashtra. Millions will step cheerfully forth to exercise their franchise. To determine their fate and with it the fate of India herself. Elections in India are a carnival of joy. Colourful, chattering queues of people who for one day have become rulers and king-makers. Yet few will stop to notice the constable who stands alone at every booth, protecting the largest democracy that history has ever seen.
This year perhaps you should! Beneath the forbidding exterior and firm visage, every policeman cloaks beneath his khaki a heart aching with sorrow today. The 21st day of October marks PoliceCommemoration Day. To find the origins of this date we must travel sixty years back in time to the inhospitable valleys of Ladakh. On this date in 1959, ten policemen were martyred by grenades pitched by Chinese forces at the Sino-Indian border. Within less than three years, the Chinese would overrun Aksai Chin, threatening the very existence of India as a nascent, sovereign state. Sixty summers have passed since that date and each year this day is commemorated by police forces across India with a memorial parade. Uniformed heads will bow in solemn silence and the skies will resound with gun salutes in memory of policemen and women who rendered the supreme sacrifice on the line of duty.
It is a tradition to read aloud the names of police personnel who were martyred that year. A fleeting second uttering their names is the only tribute they will get for their valour and courage. Society will shed her tear and move on with the clutter and clamour of 21stcentury life. But for their families, the time has stood still. For years to come, they will reminisce the pride of the day their son or daughter donned khaki for the first time. They will reminisce the last phone call he made to them on his way to final duty. And they will reminisce the return of his corpse in a coffin draped in the tricolour. But this searing remorse is inhabited by pride. Pride that their scion gave his life to protect his nation and his people.
Every policeman has two families… the one he was born in and the one that he was engendered in- the Indian Police. This family too will mourn him, but not with tears or bereavement. For us, each of those names is a beacon. A hallowed litany of names that remind us of the great cause, the great nation and the great people that we serve. We will continue to serve that ideal, no questions asked.
However, perhaps there is a question that we as a society need to ask ourselves on this. Most of these heroes who populate this list each year did not lose their lives fighting an armed enemy at the border. That glory must rightfully belong to the armed forces. Martyrs of the police are people who were killed by their own people. Their killers shared their nationhood, their killers are people who at some juncture of their lives would have even been protected by the police. Remember we are not a fighting force, we are above all a protecting force. Our antagonists, even with our blood tainting their hands can never be our enemies, for they are Indians. And we stand forsworn to protect every Indian. Like Caesar, these martyrs to are victims betrayed by their own people.
Left-wing extremism, terrorism, mob violence, gangsterism – these are the malaise where police personnel lose their lives. The ones prosecuting these evils are Indians who question the very idea of India. They choose violence to challenge her integrity, peace and sovereignty. Every single day we fight a war against ideologies and fanaticism that has led our own people astray. Today we commemorate those who unselfishly laid down their lives protecting India from her own children.
We stand at a juncture of national history where we must make a choice between two diverging paths. Are we to be a nation that is mature enough to settle her myriad differences with dialogue and justice. Or are we to be a society that inexorably leaps towards violence and anarchy. The blood of the heroes we mourn today implores us to make a choice, and it is time we made that decision as a society and as a nation, before more names make their way to the list of martyrs.
Today as you cast your vote, we hope that you will remember that there were unsung names who gave their lives so that you could celebrate India and her democracy. As for us, our thoughts are evocatively expressed by the Bard:
“My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it comes back to me.”
– Harssh A Poddar, IPS Superintendent of Police, Beed