NOVEMBER 26, 2008, a Wednesday, became the black day which most of us will never forget, although some who lost their loved ones would remember it with a sense of deep sorrow that cannot be wished away ever. It was a Wednesday that changed the way Mumbai lived. The terror attacks were largely associated with Taj Hotel, the Trident Hotel and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus due to a wide media coverage, though it was the lesser known Cama Hospital in which the quickest and most decisive of actions was taken and that too within the first few hours. The unprecedented terror attacks on Mumbai due to their very nature showed the police force in a duty-bound light while exposing the chinks in their armour. The Mumbai police had never faced an attack of this nature and magnitude. Death of highly trained personnel, shortage of sophisticated weapons and ammunition and untrained force for handling such a situation were some of the shortcomings that came to light.
This book traces the life and career of the fearless officer who showed exemplary courage during his postings – be it in Naxalite-infested Bhandara district, Satara, Sangli, Solapur or Mumbai. The book is a tribute by the grieving wife of Ashok Kamte, Additional Commissioner, East region, as he fell to the bullets of the terrorists, breathing his last in the Cama Hospital that night. She has pieced together, based on official documents, the shocking story of why the officers could have been saved from the devils’ bullets if only help had reached them in time and not after a crucial delay of 40 minutes.
This book has been written by Vinita Kamte with the help of her friend Vinita Deshmukh who travelled to towns where Ashok Kamte had been posted, spoke to the people he came in contact with and listened to his wife’s story as the latter poured out her heart with tears streaming down her eyes. Vinita Deshmukh scanned through newspaper clippings which Ashok’s wife had collected over 17 years of his dynamic and action-packed career as a police officer.
The narrative unfolds Ashok Kamte’s multi-faceted personality as a tough but humane police officer – a combat officer with expertise.
Ashok Kamte’s two sons and wife stayed in Pune when he was posted in Mumbai. They had an arrangement in which his wife used to drive down with the two sons to Mumbai every Friday and return on Monday. And each time she started off from Pune, during the journey and in typical police fashion, he would ask, “Location?” This was because “he just couldn’t want for us to reach there [home],” says his wife.
When Vinita Kamte’s friend Neha rings up to tell her to watch the news channels because “something seems to have happened,” Vinita, with hands and feet cold with fear, sees three words written on the television screen, ‘Ashok Kamte shahid’. She feels blood rushing to her head and she says, “I couldn’t believe what I saw and heard. I didn’t want to believe it. I was hoping against hope that there was some kind of a mistake.”
(Ameya Prakashan, 207 Business Guild, Law College Road, Pune-411 004, www.ameyaprakashan.com)