Ashok Chakra for Andhra Pradesh's braveheart cop, who died fighting Maoists

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Sub-Inspector K Prasad Babu

New Delhi:  President Pranab Mukherjee today conferred the Ashok Chakra, the highest peacetime gallantry award, to Sub-Inspector K Prasad Babu on India's 65th Republic Day. A Sub-Inspector in Greyhounds, the anti-naxal force of Andhra Pradesh, Prasad lost his life in April last year during an operation where nine Maoists were killed and four commandos were rescued near the Chhattisgarh-Andhra Pradesh border.

The Ashok Chakra, which usually goes to army officers, was received by Prasad's father Karunam Venkatam today. After the ceremony, Mr Venkatam, 67, recalled how he had to fight hard after his son's demise just to get to this day.

"When my son expired even I wanted to die with him. But after Ashok Chakra award was announced I thought I must accept it for my son. I stayed here for the past four months practicing the whole ceremony on the grounds. My health improved gradually. I want to tell the youth to take Prasad's work as an inspiration," he said.

Prasad's mother could not hold back her tears during the award ceremony. "He is not just my son, but India's son" she said later.

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Prasad was born in Visakhapatnamin in 1981 and grew up with two sisters. His family says the young boy loved to read books, and was good in mathematics. He was sent to a residential school in his teens. His father, who was a Sub-Inspector in the Andhra Pradesh Police wanted him to take up a civilian job. But Prasad wanted to join the police like his father.

So while he enrolled himself for an MSc degree in Osmania University in 2005, he also applied to enter the police force. Once he got in, he never looked back.

His sister Karunam Kalavati recalls how her fiance had initially tried to dissuade Prasad from joining the police force.

"My husband said told him you are good in maths why don't get into software engineering. But Prasad just replied if everyone gets into an AC office, who will work for India?"

Kalavati says while Prasad was working, he never told anyone that he had secured a position in an important unit. It was only after his death they became aware of the fact that he had two body guards and was heading a team of 21 men working in naxal infested areas.

"Everyone in my village, when they got the news of his death, they said no one else will join this job. Initially I also thought so. But later everyone came to know of him, even outside the country. My cousin in a foreign country said he is the real hero.  Both my sister's son and my son, I thought should also work for the nation. "

The children who came to attend the Republic day parade wearing army cargo pants have already started modelling themselves after their hero uncle.

"As a kid I thought I wanted to become a doctor, then I wanted to become an actress. Now I am studying to join IIT. But because of him the thought of becoming an IPS is also there. My father would say a girl becoming an IPS officer is so risky. For boys it's very easy. But I don't want to change my ambition," says Prasad's 16-year-old niece Greeshma Dantla.

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