On December 13th, 2001, a “Parliament” and “Home Ministry” marked car passed through the first gate of the compound of the Sansad Bhavan.
Five men sat inside this car and carried a heavy cache of assault rifles, grenades, grenade launcher, handmade bombs, spare ammunition and a very large bomb made of ammonium nitrate.
If this was let in unchecked, the Parliament House would not have been a complete structure. A part of it could be blown to rubble.
Add to that, every elected representative who was present inside the parliament would have been butchered, leaving Indian without a functioning parliament – essentially headless.
Two things stopped the unchecked progress of this loaded car.
The first was the Vice president’s car – without the vice-president in it.
The car was blocking the way of the terrorists, and the terrorists did a stupid thing – they rammed into it. Fortunately, the vice president was not in it. But, with the car damaged, the terrorists had no other option but to start walking for the assault.
Four of the five terrorists walked on with their AK-47 rifles. The fifth wore a heavy suicide vest.
The second obstacle they faced was in the form of a very brave woman named Kamlesh Kumari.
Kamlesh Kumari was a constable in CRPF(Central Reserve Police Force) and was manning Gate number 11 when the terrorists started on foot towards the building.
Traditionally, and ironically, women constables were not given weapons inside the Parliament premises. And Kamlesh Kumari was just armed with a walkie-talkie and nothing else.
She was the first person to spot the terrorists walking towards the parliament.
And she did what she could do best. She screamed and alerted Constable Sukhwinder Singh, who was on duty nearest to Gate number 11. Kamlesh Kumari did not care for her own safety when she did this, and hence, became the first casualty of the attack.
She was hit by a bullet in her stomach and died on the spot.
“But a big tragedy was averted due to the alertness of a brave lady,” said a CRPF officer.
But because of the early warning and exceptional alertness shown by Kamlesh Kumari, Constable Sukhwinder Singh retaliated with his own gun and closed the gates.
13 soldiers and 1 gardener died in the ensuing gun battle. The heavy suicide bomber fell to the ground and the bomb exploded before he got inside the gate. The other four were also gunned down.
40 minutes before the car carrying the terrorists entered the outer gates, the parliament had been adjourned. But many important people were still inside the Sansad Bhavan. The most important being – L K Advani, the then Home Minister, and Jaswant Singh, the then Foreign Minister, and hundreds of other MPs.
Had the terrorists gotten in, the horrors that would follow cannot be imagined.
A full-scale nuclear war would have surely happened. Our major cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai bombed by Pakistan too.
And all this was averted. Because one woman, in her moment of exceptional bravery, sacrificed her own life so that others could live.
Kamlesh Kumari left behind two proud daughters and a loving husband.
For her exceptional bravery, she was awarded the Ashoka Chakra – the highest peacetime gallantry award given by India.
She remains to be the only woman soldier or policewoman in the history of India who has been awarded this prestigious award.
May her brave soul rest in peace and her stories be told everywhere so that it can inspire people.