30 November 2009

To the last bullet by Vinita Kamte & Vinita Deshmukh

Tragic end of a real-life hero
Ashok Kamte was one of the many who were shot down and killed during the terror attacks in Bombay last year.
But his is an extraordinary story. An exceptionally gifted child from a privileged and cultured family, his decision to join the Indian Police Services arose from a true vocation and a straightforward dedication to a safe and disciplined nation. When he died in the prime of his life, India lost a rare and precious person.

My friend the journalist-activist Vinita Deshmukh was writing the book for Mrs. Kamte, and I was privileged to hear this story in person from the two of them.
When Vinita Kamte spoke, soft, calm and objective, I often felt myself close to tears. You may get an idea of how I felt if you watch here what this brave and lovely woman said at the launch of the book.
Her objective in writing the book was not just as a tribute to her dead husband but also particularly to remove the misconceptions and mystery surrounding his death. Along with the shock and tragedy of losing her husband, she also had to cope with the gossip and conjecture of one billion people who were jabbering away, “Why on earth were three senior police officers travelling together in a jeep that day? What on earth was Ashok Kamte doing out of his jurisdiction? How on earth could they have been so ill-prepared?” and so on.
Anyone who knew Ashok Kamte would know that he never did anything without a perfectly good reason. He was a man of order and discipline, and with the highest standards. He would always, always be prepared for any and every contingency!
So Vinita, with the help of her twin sister Revati, started looking for the answers to these questions. To their great surprise, they did not receive answers. Instead, obstructions were put in their way. They had to file dozens of RTI applications for the simplest information. They even had to file 3 RTIs just to get the post-mortem report of Ashok Kamte, surely the prerogative of any widow whose husband is killed on duty?
This book is the story of Ashok Kamte’s life and of the circumstances behind its death. It does no credit to the Bombay police force but Mrs. Kamte is firm that she in no way means to demean it. The force was her husband’s life; he knew and understood all that was good and bad about it. In the end he gave his life in the line of duty.
The stereotypical Indian policeman is lazy, corrupt and invariably a pervert too. But Ashok Kamte was well known for being spotlessly clean, brave, incorruptible and contemptuous of those in power, no matter how powerful, who exploited and contaminated the system. When I casually asked friends on the force, I heard nothing but the most respectful praise for the man, and deep regret that he was no more.

This book is bound to give rise to controversy. But if it also leads to more transparency and reform, Ashok Kamte would not have died in vain.

1 comment:

  1. Loved the book... She could have omitted the chapter of ashok kamte's grandfather.... but rest all was really put sincerely..