When 40-year-old Shakti Sharma, an inspector in the Jammu & Kashmir Police, first accepted her deputation to the UN Peace Mission in east Timor in 2012, everyone at home objected to her decision.
However, she insisted on going to the war ravaged nation, saying that it was an opportunity to prove herself.
Two years later, when she won the International Female Police Peacekeeper Award for “exceptional achievements” in leading the establishment of Women Police Councils in Afghanistan, she not only proved herself, but also showcased to the world that the J&K Police was adopting democratic principles of policing in the state. The prestigious award by the UN’s Police Division was delivered to Shakti during the International Association of Women Police Conference at Winnipeg, Canada, earlier this month.
The UN Police Division, in a communication to the Indian Mission, said that Shakti has “contributed to the improvement of the status of female police and has effectively helped the police of Afghanistan move towards achieving their goal of fully adopting democratic principles of policing”. She is the first police officer from India to get the annual competitive award.
Shakti, who hails from Panara village in Udhampur district, went to the village school before shifting to Jammu to attend college. The eldest among two sisters and a brother, she joined the J&K Police as a sub-inspector in 1996 when militancy was at its peak.
Known as a strict, honest and upright police officer by her colleagues, she lives here with the family of her younger brother Rajesh Sharma, an elected Sarpanch. Her younger sister Poonam is involved in a social welfare project in Canada.
Even when she was posted at the Women’s Cell, which dealt with crimes against women, she used to hold nakas along with women cops during the night to keep an eye on anti-social elements outside her station, recalled her niece, Dr Kanika Sharma. Another niece, Sunaina Sharma, said Shakti used to donate her books and teach poor children.
However, despite her zeal to work, her promotion to the rank of inspector was delayed, said Kanika.
One of Shakti’s colleagues recalled that in 2008, she was posted at Bagh-e-Bahu police station. Since illegal transportation of bovine animals from Jammu to the Valley was on the rise, she was holding a naka at night. A truck driver, however, broke through the naka and drove ahead. Shakti gave chase in her vehicle. To escape, one of the men in the truck jumped off, but was run over by the police vehicle. The next day, following protest by relatives of the deceased, Shakti was suspended on instructions of the then CM Ghulam Nabi Azad, who also ordered an inquiry. She was reinstated after a few months following a clean chit.
“All of us were opposed to her deputation to the UN peace mission given the volatile situation in east Timor as well as in Afghanistan,” said her sister-in-law Anuradha.
The last time Shakti came home was to attend the marriage of a relative in June this year. However, despite her family’s requests, she didn’t agree to stay back as she wanted to finish the job she had started.