Two young men, who made the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) proud for killing three Naxalite insurgents in a daring encounter in Rohtas district of Bihar last year, have been denied the President’s Police Medal for Gallantry (PPMG). In the Nitish Kumar government’s recommendation to the Union Home Ministry, Mohammad Ramzan and Imtiyaz Ahmad, constables, have been intriguingly replaced by an Inspector of the Bihar Police and a Superintendent of Police (SP).

According to official sources in the CRPF, Station House Officer (SHO) of the Chutia Police Station, Arun Kumar Akela, and the then SP of Rohtas, Manu Maharaj, had reached the site of the encounter two to three hours after the insurgents had been killed. On March 26, 2013, Manu Maharaj was distinctively rewarded with the State’s most sought-after posting — Senior Superintendent of Police, Patna.

“They did not fire a single shot as neither of them was present till the gunfight ended at 5.00 a.m. They reached the spot between 7.00 a.m. and 8.30 a.m. separately and insisted the encounter be shown as a joint operation of the Bihar Police and the CRPF. Then they fired three shots in the air — to justify their recommendation for PPMG,” the then Assistant Commandant of the Cobra Battalion, (CRPF 205 Battalion) Praveen Kumar Singh, told The Hindu.

Mr. Singh, as well as the families of the two jawans in Doda and Poonch districts, insisted that the duo had been dropped “only for their domicile of Jammu and Kashmir.”

“The mindset in sections of the Central forces is biased against the J&K tag. Religion is not the problem. They would similarly treat even a Hindu from Jammu. On the other hand, they are comfortable with a Muslim from Kerala,” Mr. Singh said. He revealed that he had sent his letter of protest to the President of India, the Prime Minister, the Union Home Minister, the Home Secretary as well as the Director General of CRPF.

“I pleaded that the injustice be removed and the names of Ramzan and Imtiyaz be included in the consideration. I just received an acknowledgement. Nobody bothered to respond, let alone redress the grievance,” Mr. Singh added. He was instead shifted to Battalion 209 in Maharashtra.

“We are disappointed with the way Ramzan and Imtiyaz have been dropped. They had joined the force with high hopes and ambition to serve the nation. Had they died, what would have happened to their children and families?” Ramzan’s uncle, Abdul Rashid, asked. “When he joined in 2005, we felt ourselves as part of the national mainstream, part of this great country. But we feel ashamed now,” Ramzan’s brother Aijaz said. “Both the families are now asking them to quit and return to do something better in the State.”.

“It was a 10-member Naxal group, including a woman. As we were crawling to the identified spot, they fired on us from two directions. Three of them died and we captured one alive. Others escaped in the jungle,” Ramzan recounted.

SHO Akela recommended himself and the SP, Manu Maharaj, besides two CRPF men, T.N. Singh and Briju Kumar, for the PPMG.

DG CRPF Pranay Sahay did not respond to phone calls and an email.

Minister of State for Home in the Omar Abdullah government, Sajjad Ahmad Kichloo, said: “We will take up this matter of grave injustice with the Government of India and the Government of Bihar.”