The morning of 13 December 2001 was uneventful and had passed like any other, but within minutes, a terrorist attack would launch in the building, shaking the capital to its core.
A son of a CRPF inspector, Santosh Kumar also joined the forces, aspiring to make his father proud. Just six months after his training, he would be right in the middle of the action, shooting down three out of five terrorists who attacked the Parliament House in December 2001.
Santosh Kumar, a native of Ghazipur, Uttar Pradesh, was just 21-years-old when he was posted at Delhi’s Parliament House. A little disappointed that he was not in the middle of action, Kumar was still just as vigilant at his duty.
Six months after his training in Neemaj, Rajasthan, he battled terrorists who attacked the political elites of India.
It was close to noon on the fateful day of 13 December 2001. The Parliament house in Delhi had been adjourned for 40 minutes but about a hundred people, including the political elites, were still in the building. L K Advani, the Home Minister at the time, and Jaswant Singh, the then Foreign Minister, were just two of these VVIPs.
CRPF officials, Delhi police personnel, security guards and parliament helpers, like gardeners, were working on the premises as usual.
The morning was uneventful and had passed like any other, but within minutes, a terrorist attack would launch in the building, shaking the capital to its core.
A white ambassador with a red-batti (light) entered gate number 11 of the premises.
Although such cars are common in the Parliament, CRPF’s Kamlesh Kumari observed that something was amiss. The woman constable was posted at Gate number 1, very close to Gate 11, which was the main entrance for the VVIPs coming to the Parliament.
As soon as the vehicle entered, it began speeding, something that these cars don’t usually do.
She could have taken refuge, but as soon as she saw that the passengers in the car were heavily armed, she alerted other CRPF personnel and security guards on her walkie-talkie, running to Gate number 11 while doing so.
Constable Kumari was not armed with any weapons–back in 2001 women constables were not given weapons inside the Parliament premises.
Constable Sukhwinder Singh was at the gate, and Kumari was running towards him to alert him.
While the security personnel became vigilant by Kumari’s brave actions, unfortunately, so were the terrorists, who showered bullets at the CRPF constable.
She died on the spot, taking 11 bullets to her stomach.
Fortunately, constable Singh perceived the terrorists and shot at one of them who was wearing a suicide bomb. The bomb exploded, killing the terrorist and saving the lives of many others.
Head constable Y B Thapa, who was with Singh, recalls, “I ran and took position behind a pillar while Sukhvinder took guard behind a wall near gate no 3. We both started firing at one of the terrorists running towards gate number one. Soon, there was an explosion, and I saw the [terrorist] had died. When I tried to move, I just couldn’t. I looked, and there was blood all over. I had been hit.”
The five terrorists were dispersing in the premises, posing more and more danger to the politicians inside the building. But for the bravery of then constable D Santosh Kumar, fresh from his training at the CRPF, who was stationed at gate 6.
“As soon as I heard burst fire, I knew it was an attack,” he told The Times of India, adding, “I took position behind a tree and soon saw three terrorists running towards gate number 9. They wanted to enter [the] parliament, but as they were being fired at from the other side, they were forced to take position near the gate.”
From here, Kumar aimed at the three terrorists, shooting them one after the other. Recalling the incident, he tells India Today, “The time when they could barely see me, even I did not have a very good view of them, but I could see their chest and abdomen and knew what had to be done…”
He shot two of them, taking refuge to reload his gun before aiming at the third.
“The third understood my location and fired at me from his AK-47. By then, my bullet had pierced him as well,” he adds.
The fifth and the last man was running towards the Parliament building’s gate 5. But constable Shyambir Singh had marked the target and gunned him within three minutes of Kumar killing three terrorists.
While the constables were performing their duties to perfection, it was inspector Mohan Prasad, the CRPF official who was “ready to retire”, who coordinated their efforts.
“He was an old man on the verge of retirement,” Kumar told TOI, adding, “But he had great energy. He guided us throughout the attack, running from one gate to another, shouting, ‘Idhar se gher, udhar se mar (Surround them from here, hit them from there)’.”
The terrorist attack was countered by these courageous officials, even as the terrorists killed nine people, including the security personnel and a gardener.
The troopers also successfully stopped the attack from expanding inside the Parliament building and posing a direct danger to the political elites.
The four CRPF constables who shot the terrorists–Sukhwinder Singh, Y B Thapa, Santosh Kumar and Shyambir Singh–were rightfully awarded the Shaurya Chakra and promoted in their services.
CRPF constable Kamlesh Kumari was posthumously awarded the Ashok Chakra by former President K R Narayanan. She became the first woman to be conferred this prestigious award posthumously.
After fighting the terrorists in December 2001, Santosh Kumar went on to counter naxals in the forests of Dantewada, in Chhattisgarh. A master marksman, he defuses live bombs too. He was also posted in Jammu and Kashmir, but says that after the terrorist attacks in Delhi, he hasn’t yet had the opportunity to fight militants.
Even as his wife and young daughter eagerly wait for his infrequent calls, the CRPF official looks forward to serving his country just one more time.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)