Sanjay Chopra Award

Prince Kumar. Age 16. Gaya, Bihar

Sanjay Chopra Award
‘All children should act brave when the need arises’

Prince Kumar, 16, has a slight built, a slighter moustache, and is a student of Class 8 at the Holy Child school in Bihar’s Gaya district. A big fan of Sachin Tendulkar and Shah Rukh Khan, he watches the countdown shows on television for the latest Hindi film songs and Indipop.

He plays cricket and football with his school friends and his brother Ashish, who also happens to be his best friend. He likes jalebees and samosas, and tries to assist his father Ramji Prasad run his small jewellery shop in Gaya. His dream: To become an IPS officer.

A typical middle class life, in a small town in one of India’s poorest states. Until an incident on November 5, 1999. An incident that a year later won him the prestigious Sanjay Chopra Award, the nation’s second highest award for bravery.

Prince Kumar narrates his story:

It was the 5th of November 1999, two days before Diwali. Since it was the festive season, sales were brisk. My brother Ashish and I were helping Daddy at the shop. I left the shop around 11 pm and went home. Daddy and Ashish left half an hour later.

As they entered the lane leading to our house, they saw two shady looking young men lurking nearby. Daddy hesitated, but Ashish urged him to ignore them and keep moving on. When they reached the gate, I opened it. Ashish asked my father to move towards the house, while he stood there with me as I was closing and locking the gate.

Suddenly, six or seven men pushed the gate open. Ashish and I blocked their path. One of them put a revolver at Ashish’s head and threatened to shoot him unless we moved out of their way. The threat had no effect on Ashish, who shouted back, “Do not show me this toy.” Then suddenly, Ashish punched the man with the revolver on his face, shaking him badly. But another man with a revolver hit Ashish on his skull and he fell.

This drove me mad, and I caught that man by his neck, squeezing his air pipe and sunk my teeth into his arm. He started shouting with pain. One of his accomplices fired at me, but missed. The bullet hit the compound wall. But his second shot pierced my back, barely an inch away from the spinal cord, and I fell to the ground. In the commotion that followed, the robbers fled.

My father, who was throwing iron buckets and other household items at the robbers from the second floor of our house, came running down when heard the shots. He and my injured brother carried me to the house. Our neighbours too reached the scene and I was taken to the Government Hospital nearby.

I was fully conscious. The doctor said the bullet had just grazed me and had not pierced the body. But the next morning, a senior doctor advised us to go to Patna, the state capital 110 kilometres from Gaya, for better medical consultation.

At the Alok nursing home in Patna, Dr Narendra Prasad recommended immediate surgery, since the bullet was lodged inside my body. I was operated upon and had to stay in the nursing home for 20 days.

(“When he was operated upon, the doctors told me he might walk with a limp… thank God, it was a false apprehension; he is perfectly normal now,” says a tearful Ramji Prasad, his father.)

I had to stay on in Patna for one-and-a-half months after I was discharged from the nursing home, as I was not in a position to travel. Daddy rented a room there. Morever, I had to get pus drained from my wound for a long time. After that I went for orthopaedic exercises, which helped me walk normally.

It was while I was in the nursing home that Dr Prasad told my father that I could get a bravery award for what I had done. Later, my elder brother, who studies in Delhi, submitted an an application at Rashtrapati Bhavan and completed other formalities.

On November 14, 2000, my father read the news about my getting the award in a newspaper. Our family was delirious with joy. My friends, classmates and teachers were all very happy for me. Everybody was congratulating my father and me. Ashish, my brother, got a General Bravery Award. It was our greatest moment.

Even in my dreams, I had never expected to participate in the Republic Day Parade, or meet the prime minister or President. The award has made it possible. It will help me in making my career. I have been to Delhi before, but it was so different this time. Arrangements were made for our free stay and we were taken for tours to fun parks and other beautiful places.

I think all children should act brave when the need arises. In fact we should not expect the police to be there every time and should focus on self-defence.

As told to Basharat Peer

Article reproduced with permission and courtesy of  REDIFF.COM