A month and a half after the terrorist attacks in Mumbai,a grateful nation is ready to honour the men who laid down their lives in the line of duty. It is learnt that Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan and Havaldar Gajinder Singh of the NSG,Mumbai Assistant Police Inspector Tukaram Omble and Police Inspector Shashank Shinde are being considered for the Ashok Chakra,the nations highest peacetime gallantry award.
Major Unnikrishnan died at the Taj and Havaldar Singh at Nariman House. Assistant Inspector Omble held on to Ajmal Kasab even as he was being ripped up by bullets. Inspector Shinde fired at Kasab and his partner Ismail Khan with his service revolver outside CST before falling to a hail of AK-47 bullets.
Two other policemen and two Army personnel are also on the list for their heroism in counter-insurgency operations in the North-East and J&K,and in anti-Naxal operations in Orissa. The police names have already been announced: Orissa Police Special Operations Group Assistant Commandant Pramod Kumar Satapathy who died leading his team against an attack by 500 Naxalites outside Bhubaneswar,and Meghalaya Deputy Superintendent of Police R P Diengdoh who died leading an operation against a militant jungle camp.
Eight Ashok Chakras the peacetime equivalent of the Param Vir Chakra,given for the most conspicuous bravery,or some act of daring or pre-eminent valour or self-sacrifice in peacetime in a single year is unusually high. Over the past 10 years,only six police and paramilitary personnel have received the Ashok Chakra. The highest in a single year so far has been 3 awarded to security personnel who died defending Parliament in the 2002 terrorist attack.
Sources said many of those recommended for the Ashok Chakra could be considered for Kirti Chakra,the next-highest peacetime award,the Presidents Gold Medal for gallantry (police) or the Shaurya Chakra.
Once finalised,the list will be sent to the PMO,and forwarded to the President for confirmation three days before Republic Day.