OPINION
President Ram Nath Kovind, please take back his gallantry medal
- kanwar manjit singh
President Ram Nath Kovind, please take back his gallantry medal



IF THE PRESIDENT of India gives a gallantry medal to a police officer for recovering "deadly weapons" and arresting "indiscriminate shooters," and later a court finds that it was a complete lie, should the President not withdraw the medal?

Amod Kanth was the only IPS officer of Delhi to have been awarded a gallantry medal during the 1984 Sikh riots. A 1984 anti-Sikh riot victim family tried for years to get justice, and beseeched everyone who was ready to listen that Amod Kanth should be stripped of his medal.
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India's gallantry award goes to men and women who are brave in the face of grave danger to their own lives. It enhances the respect for the uniform. It cannot be reduced to become a badge of shame.

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The Indian Express had carried a report by senior journalist Manoj Mitta, titled, "Amod Kanth's gallantry medal is badge of shame." Amod Kanth has since retired, and still retains his medal.

President Ram Nath Kovind has now ordered cancellation and forfeiture of a gallantry medal given to a Madhya Pradesh police officer after the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) found that the encounter for which the medal was given was fake. This medal has been withdrawn 13 years after it was awarded.
 
On September 21 this year, the President’s secretariat issued a notification that said the "Police Medal for Gallantry awarded to Dharmendra Choudhary is hereby cancelled and the medal forfeited. Dharmendra Choudhary, IPS, is currently the Deputy Inspector-General of Police (Ratlam Range). He was additional superintendent of police posted in Jhabua in 2002 when he killed Lobhan Singh, a dacoit wanted in more than a dozen cases in MP, Rajasthan and Gujarat. Later, it was found that the close-range encounter was fake.

It is time to recall the matter of another fake gallantry award, given for an action during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi to police officer Amod Kanth. Sikhs, and all Punjabis, in fact, all right thinking Indians everywhere, must demand that the president withdraws the medal which Amod Kanth has.

Kanth received a medal for arresting "indiscriminate shooters'," a reference to a Sikh family which lost its breadwinner Amir Singh that day in 1984, Mitta had reported. Four years later, the entire family, charged with murder, was cleared by the courts. Amir's son Trilok Singh and his mother had filed an affidavit before the Justice G.T. Nanavati Commission asking that Kanth be stripped of his award. 

Amir Singh was killed by a mob of anti-Sikh rioters on November 5, 1984 as he slipped out of his Paharganj house to call the police for help. Police claimed Amir was killed in a shootout between him and his family on one side and the police and the Army on the other. 

Next year, Kanth, by then the Joint Commissioner of Police, was awarded a gallantry medal. 

Another medal went to the then SHO of Paharganj police station, S S Mannan, for the same shootout in which a soldier, Kishan Bahadur, and a rioter, Mangal Dass, were killed. However, the police version was found to be a fraud when the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) established that the bullets recovered from the bodies of Dass and Bahadur did not match any of the arms seized from the Sikh family.

It was found that people had died in the crossfire between the police and the Army. It still took four long years for the prosecution to withdraw the murder case against Trilok and his entire family in 1988.

Trilok consistently held out the version that Amir was lynched by a mob on November 5 but the administration stuck to the police gallantry story. His family was denied relief on the basis that he was not a 1984 riot victim. It was only Kiran Bedi who as Lt Governor of Delhi ensured that the administration listens to the victim family. They were finally acknowledged as a riot victim and his widow was paid the due compensation of Rs 3.20 lakh.

In 2003, Manoj Mitta wrote the tale of his encounter with Justice Nanawati, under the headline, "An Encounter With A Judge." Nanawati was investigating the Gujarat killings and had made the statement that the evidence recorded so far did not indicate ''any serious lapse'' on the part of the police or administration.

He wondered why Nanawati would say something that would discourage the victims intending to depose before him about the horrors they suffered in Ahmedabad and Vadodara.

It was then that he recalled the issue of the medal of Amod Kanth. His writings had knocked the bottom out of Kanth's gallantry medal. 
"The Carnage Justice Committee (CJC), appearing for victims, requested the Commission to recommend that Kanth be immediately stripped of his medal. Declining to give any interim report to the government, Nanavati said he would deal with the CJC's application only at the end of the proceedings," Mitta wrote.

"When I appeared before the Commission, Nanavati did not fault any of the facts contained in the report. All he did was to take umbrage at the headline which described Kanth's gallantry medal as a 'badge of shame'," he recalled.

"Kanth was rewarded for rounding up a Sikh family which was so clearly acting in self defence from its own home," Mitta added.
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It is time Sikhs, and all Punjabis, in fact, all right thinking Indians everywhere, looked at the issue of the medal that Amod Kanth retains.
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Then came the shocking part. When Kanth accused Mitta of doing the story on the basis of a ''non-existent'' affidavit, it was found that the affidavit filed by one of the affected family members, Trilok Singh, was no more on the records of the Commission. 

"That was totally contrary to the law because no document can be physically taken out of the Commission's records for any reason whatsoever without Nanavati's orders. Much to his discredit, Nanavati desisted from uncovering the complicity of his staff with the efforts to shield Kanth," Mitta wrote.

Now that we have an example where the President of India has stripped a wrongly honoured man of his gallantry medal, it is time for the good people of the republic to demand that the honour of the award is saved by taking it back from someone who never deserved it.

India's gallantry award goes to men and women who are brave in the face of grave danger to their own lives. It enhances the respect for the uniform. It cannot be reduced to become a badge of shame.

His Excellency, the President of India, is a custodian of that respect. It is time he acted in this case. It is never too late.
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