“Everyday we fight crime. Today, we fight our tears as well”— As the nation pays respect to police martyrs today on Police Commemoration Day, the story of October 21, 1959 when 10 police personnel at Hot Springs area in north eastern Ladakh were killed by the Chinese Army, needs to be retold. Every year, October 21 is observed as Police Commemoration Day. In fact, until the autumn of 1959, it was the Indian Police who manned the 2,500-mile-long border of India with Tibet. It was October 20, 1959, a day before India’s brave policemen lost their lives, three police parties were launched from Hot Springs in preparation for...further movement of an Indian expedition which was on its way to Lanak La. Two of those parties returned to Hot Springs by the afternoon, but the third party comprising two policemen and a porter did not come back.
The next morning, i.e. October 21, about 20 police personnel led by the group leader Karam Singh, proceeded ahead on horseback, while others followed on foot in three sections, mainly to search for the missing policemen. It was the noon of October 21, 1959, the Chinese Army personnel, positioned on a hillock, began to open fire and threw grenades at the Indian police party. The attack was unprovoked and was quite a surprise for the policemen who did not take any cover. As many as 10 policemen died and seven of them were taken prisoners by the Chinese. The rest somehow managed to escape.
The Chinese Army returned the bodies of the dead Indian policemen only on November 13, 1959, i.e. three weeks after the incident. These bodies of the brave cops were then cremated with at Hot Springs.
The annual conference of Inspectors General of Police of states and union territories held in January 1960 took a decision that October 21 would henceforth be observed as ‘Commemoration Day’ in all police lines throughout India to mark the memory of those gallant personnel who were killed in Ladakh and also all other police personnel killed on duty during the year.
A memorial was erected at Hot Springs and every year, members of police forces from different parts of the country trek to Hot Springs to pay homage to those gallant martyrs.
And since 2012, the Police Commemoration Day Parade has been held at the national level at the police memorial in New Delhi’s Chanakyapuri area.
According to police record, more than 33,000 police personnel have sacrificed their lives for security of the nation and service to the society since 1961.