Head constable Anil Kumar loves his beat partner, Himmat, more than his family.
On a warm weekday, Kumar walks towards Himmat, a 16-year-old stallion, and plants a kiss on its forehead. “I loved you more than my wife, and my children. I will always remember you,” he says.
Himmat is among five stallions whose retirement applications have been moved forward recently — a development that will bring down the strength of the Delhi Police mounted unit to a historic low of 17 horses, against a sanctioned strength of 95.
In their peak, the five horses had spent their days patrolling the capital’s streets, helping officers control unruly mobs, and also winning medals at the All India Police Meets.
But with retirement on the horizon, they spend their last days in the mounted unit enjoying milk and jaggery.
With the ‘Raftaar’ patrolling bikes and scooters being introduced, chances of a new horse being inducted into the unit are thin. For the time being, the provision and logistics unit of the Delhi Police in Civil Lines is preparing for their retirement ceremony.
Every stallion has a dedicated rider, of the rank of constable and head constable. A lot of them have been buying food for the animals out of their own pockets, as the veterinarian prepares reports before the stallions are sent to a local NGO.
Anil has fallen off Himmat’s back many times. The black stallion is known to be temperamental, especially when dealing with crowds. “The stallion was ridden for six months to break it in. But Himmat never lets anyone ride it,” Kumar says.
A few paces away, Akash, a white stallion, allows its rider Hari Kishan to climb on effortlessly. The animal is described as Himmat’s polar opposite, having never thrown a rider off. “Akash has won three back-to-back jumping tournaments and over 40 medals in its career,” Kishan says.
Akash (16) still nurses a tissue tear in its right hoof, but that never deterred it from leading ceremonial parades in the capital.
The brown stallion, Mirza, has never had that honour as it gets anxious around large crowds, vehicles and other animals. “Mirza used to be deployed to control crowds, but it would throw off the rider and run away. Dhokebaaz ghoda hai,” rider Surjeet Rana says.
The fastest among them, Miraj, has left its running days behind. It has changed hands many times as only a young rider can mount this horse. “Miraj gallops wildly, it is hard to keep up,” the rider says.
The prized possession, though, is Onkar, who has earned the moniker ‘fearless’ for excelling in obstacle courses. It used to lead VIP ceremonial parades with Akash, and has participated in multiple cross-country events.
“It once completed a 27 obstacle course event in which organisers burst firecrackers and put bikes in front of the animal. We will never see the likes of Onkar,” its rider said.