“To The Last Bullet” by Vinita Kamte

It must be extremely difficult to write about the death of a loved one. And, how can one remain objective while writing about someone you have loved and admired? Yet, Mrs Vinita Kamte has managed to do just that in her book, ” To The Last Bullet” , published by Ameya Prakashan in 2009 and co- written with a senior journalist Vinita Deshmukh. It is possible that the author’s name doesn’t ring a bell because time flies and it is now 10 years since the awful terror strike on November 26, 2008 at Mumbai. I must admit that till 26/11, I had not heard of Mr Ashok Kamte IPS and it is only after reading this book that I realise what an admirable police officer he was.

This book is written by Mrs Vinita Kamte in remembrance of her husband, the late Mr Ashok Kamte, IPS, then Addl. Commissioner East Region, Mumbai who lost his life fighting the terrorists on that fateful day. Mr Kamte was honoured with the posthumous Ashoka Chakra for his bravery in fighting back and injuring the lone terrorist to be captured alive, Ajmal Kasab.

The by line to the book says it all, ” The inspiring story of braveheart Ashok Kamte: 26/11 Mumbai Terror Attack- Cama Hospital Incident unfolded….”. While other terror attacks in that strike got more coverage from the media like the attacks on the Taj Hotel and the Oberoi, much less was written or known about what exactly transpired near the Cama and Albless Hospital that night.

Mrs. Kamte writes in great detail about how her efforts to piece together events initially met with little or no success. Even her  husband’s ex colleagues and supervisors were not forthcoming as she hoped and naturally expected. She had to resort to filing an application under the Right to Information Act to get details of important phone calls and the like. You must read the book for yourself to understand what a big gap there was between what was initially thought to have happened and what actually happened in the late hours of November 26 and the early hours of November 27. You will recall that along with Mr Kamte, two other well-known officers of the Mumbai Police lost their lives with him. Mr Hemant Karkare, IPS the head of the Maharashtra Anti Terror Squad, no less, and Inspector Vijay Salaskar, an encounter specialist.

Many questions come to mind: How come Mr Rakesh Maria, IPS Jt Commissioner ( Crime) was given charge of the police Control Room and not Mr Karkare, the anti terror chief? How come the police did not respond to Mr Karkare’s appeals for more reinforcements and to call the Army troops to attack the holed up terrorists from the front of the Cama Hospital? Why were the three officers left to lie unattended on the road suffering from grievous injuries for more than 30 crucial minutes in the wee hours of the morning? A prompt rescue which was easily possible may well have saved their lives.

The book also speaks of Mr Kamte’s illustrious career in the IPS in the course of which he fought Naxalites in Bhandara and quelled crime in Solapur amongst other achievements. It was tragic that such a fine officer like Ashok Kamte had to die that day. He was a major asset to the Police Force and India lost a great son in his untimely death aged just 42.

This book is highly recommended not just because it is the story of a dedicated and efficient police officer but because it unravels how at times of crisis things can and will go wrong. What are the lessons we learnt from the Mumbai attacks and are we better prepared now as compared to 10 years ago? Only time will tell. We owe it to brave men like Mr Kamte that we keep alive their memories. This book will go a long way in telling his story.

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