Ashok Iyer wanted to be posted in Gadchiroli. If his seniors are to be believed, he asked for it. An expert in anti-Naxalite operations, the 52-year-old loved his job and that is what killed him.
Iyer, a police inspector posted at the Dhanora police station, was leading the 16-member police team which was ambushed near Tavitola, more than 10 km away from the police station, on May 21. All 16 policemen were killed, including Iyer.
Iyer’s family is originally from Jalgaon but settled in Yavatmal. He began his career as a police constable in 1976. He later appeared for the Maharashtra Public Services Commission exams and joined as a sub-inspector.
“He was a daredevil,” said a senior police officer, who had watched Iyer at work. “He had a good understanding of the tactics needed to tackle the Naxalites in the region.”
The Dhanora police station, where Iyer joined in January, is enveloped in an uneasy calm. The policemen go about their duties almost mechanically, many still in shock and angry about the death of 16 of their colleagues.
Suresh Kirange, the constable who knew Iyer closely, and had worked under him during Iyer’s previous posting in Gadchiroli’s Purada police station in 2003, was also killed in the May 21 attack.
“Iyer saheb was a very polite, simple man,” said a constable from Dhanora, requesting anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
“He was meticulous and checked every diary entry daily and explained to us where we were going wrong. He had immense experience which he used to guide us.”
In the five months that he served at the Dhanora police station, Iyer won over the confidence of the staff.
“Every morning and evening when we had our roll call, he would inquire about each one of us, advise us how to go about our work and even asked about our families,” said the constable.
The staff found it easy to approach Iyer with their problems. “If a family member needed medical help or if we needed leave urgently, he would understand,” the constable said.
Iyer would always tell his men to be careful for the sake of their families.
Today, his family is living the nightmare he had feared for his men’s families.
He leaves behind his mother, wife and three children. “We are in a lot of pain and are going through a hard time,” said Iyer’s son Avinash on the phone from Yavatmal, his voice choking.
“Nobody in my family is in a condition to talk. Please give us some time to recover from this grief,” he said.
(Inputs from Pradip Kumar Maitra in Nagpur)