A woman wearing a helmet and a flak jacket stood at the head of a battery of security forces picketing an advancing mob of stone-throwing protesters during last year’s summer unrest in the old quarters of Jammu and Kashmir’s summer capital.
She is Kanchan Yadav, the assistant commandant of the CRPF’s 44 battalion in Srinagar.
For her battalion, she is ‘Lady Singham’ — named after the brave cop played by Bollywood star Ajay Devgan in the hit Singham series.
The 28-year-old officer was the lone woman with the CRPF to be assigned law-and-order responsibilities in the latest bout of prolonged unrest in the troubled Valley.
“For me the nation comes first, above everything,” said Yadav, dismissing the dangers of being out on the volatile streets and facing stones.
“I love my job. You wear this uniform and take up a responsibility only when a great force drives you … and that, for me, was joining the forces and serving my country.”
Kashmir has been Yadav’s first posting and, since June 2015, she has been based out of a camp in downtown Srinagar.
Her courage and skills were tested after militant commander Burhan Wani was killed and protests erupted across Kashmir. Yadav got additional charge of a company, which was deployed to maintain law and order.
She stood up to the call of duty, guarding unflinchingly the disturbed streets from morning to evening.
“When I was serving in a static posting, I often wondered if I would be able to perform my responsibilities on the ground. But now, after this posting, I am confident I can do anything and serve in any position,” Yadav said.
In her camp by the Jhelum, the 2010 Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) officer and a native of Haryana, she traced the family roots that prodded her passion for the khaki uniform.
Her mother too is an assistant commandant with the CRPF, at present on election duty in the northeastern state of Manipur. As was her maternal grandfather, who retired from the paramilitary force. Her father is a retired air force officer.
“Everyone in my family is in the defence. My mother is my greatest motivator. She inspired me to join the services,” she said.
Her mother was posted in Kashmir in 1999 during the Kargil war. And then, for the first time, the 11-year-old Kanchan visited the Valley.
Yadav’s husband is a navy officer posted in Kochi. The couple married in December, 2015.
“My husband and I are dedicated to the service of the nation. Family does not come in between,” she smiled.
Whenever she gets time from her crushing schedule, the young officer interacts with residents near her camp, listens to their joys and problems. “We women are not less than anyone. Just follow your heart and you will do the best.”