Kamlesh Kumari was an Indian constable who served with the Central Reserve Police Force (CPRF) and and was awarded Ashok Chakra, the highest possible award conferred during peacetime by the Republic of India. She became the second woman after Neerja Bhanot to receive this rare honour. The Ashok Chakra, instituted in 1950, is normally awarded to military and paramilitary force personnel for gallantry away from the battlefield. Kumari lost her life on 13 December 2001 after successfully preventing terrorist gunmen and a terrorist suicide bomber from reaching Parliament during the 2001 Indian Parliament attack.
A Quick Recap:
Constable Kamlesh Kumari Yadav joined the CPRF in 1994 and was first posted with the elite 104 Rapid Action Force (RAF) in Allahabad. Soon after, she was posted at the 88 Mahila Battalion on 12 July 2001. Kumar became part of Bravo Company, the group tasked with securing Parliament when in session.
On December 13, 2001 Kamlesh Yadav was posted at Iron Gate No. 1, next to Building Gate No. 11, of the Parliament House, which is the main entrance for VVIPs coming to Parliament. Her job was to assist the Parliament House Watch & Ward staff in frisking and checking visitors. “At Parliament, Mahila constables don’t carry arms and ammunition,” said a senior CRPF official.
The suspicious movement of the beacon-fitted white ambassador that the terrorists used to reach parliament was first spotted by CRPF’s woman constable Kamlesh Kumari and Watch and Ward staff J P Yadav when it entered from the main gate on Parliament Street side and started speeding. Realising something was amiss, both J P Yadav and Kamlesh Kumari ran back to post to seal the gate. The terrorists, their cover effectively blown and unable to travel further due to Kumari’s foresight, opened fire. Eleven bullets struck Kamlesh Yadav in the stomach, but the gunfire alerted other guards in the complex who moved to secure the building first and then shot the terrorists dead. The attack occurred at 11:50 in the morning.
Kamlesh Yadav’s alertness prevented a suicide bomber among the terrorists from executing his plan; the closing of Gate No. 1 and the alarm raised gave time for other security personnel to take position and neutralize the would-be bomber. It could have been even more damaging had she not acted on the first sight.
Notably, Mohammad Afzal, who was determined to have played a key role as a conspirator in the attack by investigators, was convicted and sentenced to death by the Supreme Court of India. Afzal’s family had “camped” in New Delhi with the hope of conveying a mercy petition to then President Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. In response, Kamlesh’s surviving family publicly declared that they would return the Ashok Chakra awarded to her if the President were to accept the petition. As the president neither rejected nor accepted the petition, the families of eight security officials who had been honored for their bravery during the attacks (including Kamlesh’s) returned their gallantry medals on 13 December 2006, in protest against the delay in execution of Mohammad Afzal.
President Pranab Mukherjee succeeded Dr. A.P.J. Kalam as President on 25 July 2012. In early 2013, he rejected the petition for clemency. Mohammad Afzal was hanged on 9 February 2013 at Tihar Jail at approximately 8:00 am IST. On 30 March 2013, the martyrs’ families agreed to accept back the gallantry medals which they had returned in 2006.
Not many of them fell to fidayeens’ bullets, but they were brave-hearts no less. The men and women of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), who were guarding various gates of Parliament on the fateful day of December 13, 2001, were the reason why the five rampaging militants’ designs were thwarted.
Kamlesh’s is survived by two daughters, Jyoti Yadav and Shweta Yadav, and her husband, Avdhesh Yadav. Kamlesh’s family hails from Sikanderpur, Kannauj in Uttar Pradesh. Kamlesh and her family had earlier lived in Vikaspuri, Delhi.Constable Kamlesh Yadav was posthumously awarded the nation’s highest peacetime award, the Ashoka Chakra, by the President of India on Republic Day in 2002 in honour of her bravery and courage. Prime Minister A.B. Vajapeyee also paid tribute to her.