Earlier this week the country paid homage to the 20 jawans on their first death anniversary. They laid down their lives valiantly fighting the Chinese army in the Galwan valley last year. But strangely no one bothered to ask what happened to the promises made to the families of these martyrs.
Governments, both at the Centre and at the states, salute security forces and sing paeans about their courage and spirit to lay down their lives for the sake of the country. But it’s no secret that when it comes to giving them their dues none comes forward. Even the demands of the bereaved families of our martyrdom are not taken seriously. This only exposes the hypocrisy of the governments.
Chandan Kumar was all of 20 years when he made the highest sacrifice for his country during the Galwan valley clash. He joined the Indian Army in May 2017 and was deputed in the Galwan valley as his first posting.
Speaking to this correspondent, Chandan Kumar’s family poured out their ire at the government.
Recounting the anxious moments the family spent during the violent clash at the border, his elder brother Dev Kumar said, “We were constantly in touch with him (Chandan) since the beginning of May when tensions were started soaring between the two armies at in the Galwan valley. But he could not be contacted the last few weeks before the incident. On the night of June 16, we received a call from the Indian Army informing that my brother had been martyred.”
On June 19, the dead body of the deceased brave heart arrived at his home in Gyanpura village under Bhojpur district. He was cremated with full military honours in a field some distance away from his house.
According to Dev Kumar, they received an ex gratia of Rs 11 lakh from the Central government soon after. Their grouse is that a full year has passed, but one of their key demands is yet to be considered.
What is their demand? It is not something that they want for themselves. It’s a demand that would have given a recognition to the national hero due to him and immortalise him in the memories of his compatriots. They wanted to have a memorial of Chandan with his statue installed at the place where he was cremated.
“Apart from this,” his brother said, “we demanded that the only primary school in the village be named after him. We had also asked to make a toran (a gate at entry point of the village) in his name at the entrance of the village. But unfortunately none of the demands have been considered as yet.”
There has been a tradition to install an idol, create railway platforms in the name of the martyrs near their villages so that their sacrifice for the country won’t go into oblivion. A token honour though, these memorials go a long way in keeping the memories of our heroes alive for generations.
Dev Kumar asks, “How else would the generations to come know that a soldier from this village had died for the country? A memorial, a gateway, and an idol, all these symbols would keep my brother alive in their hearts. But the government is not serious about our demands. The local BJP MP, RK Singh, who had come to the village accompanying bhai’s body had assured us a stadium in his name to come up in the village. But, no initiative has been taken in this direction either.”
A soldier himself, Dev Kumar says, “I know how much courage it takes to take on the soldiers of an enemy country. I understand the value of the martyrdom. But the government does not seem to understand this. When there are memorial dedicated to Chandan, the younger generation would know how important the security of the country is.”
Unfulfilled promises galore
Last year, this scribe had met the families of Ratan Thakur and Mahendra Sinha, the two jawans from Bihar who died in Pulwama terror attack in February 2019. They too had a similar grouse. The government had made tall promises, but never bothered to fulfil any of them.
It may be recalled here that the ruling BJP had vociferously raised the bogey of the massacre during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections to win the sympathy of the electorate. So desperate was the party to woo the voters that it even ignored the reprimand of the Election Commission for using the sacrifices of the army for electoral gains.
However, the BJP is not alone in the race to cash in on army’s reputation for electoral gains. Every political party in power does it. But once their purpose is served, they forget the families of the martyrs and the promises they make to them.
In 2017, the families of the martyrs of Pathankot terror attack had demonstrated against the government over its unfulfilled promises. The kin of Lance Naik Hemraj, who was martyred in an encounter with Maoists, had to go on a hunger strike in 2013 against the Uttar Pradesh government for its failure to build a martyr’s memorial as promised by it. Many such demonstrations go unreported and thereby unnoticed.
Spike in death toll
There has been a significant rise in the killings of soldiers in the country in the last 10 years. According to the data collected under the Right to Information Act 2005 by Sanjay Ezhava, a social activist, there has been a 100 percent increase in the martyrdom of soldiers in the last decade. According to statistics, from the year 2011 to June 2020, as many as 552 soldiers have been killed by terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir alone. Similarly, dozens of soldiers have lost their lives in Maoist attacks.
Against this backdrop, the question arises how committed is our government to its self-avowed support to the army? This can be gauged from its lackadaisical attitude towards the welfare of our ex-servicemen. Indian Army veterans have been demanding ‘One Rank One Pension’ (OROP) for long. During the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime, they had carried on with their prolonged agitation.
During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the NDA had included OROP in its election manifesto. Narendra Modi, as a prime ministerial candidate, announced that OROP will be implemented as soon as the NDA comes in power. But ever since they came to power, they kept the outstanding demand of the soldiers in abeyance. Disillusioned with the empty promises of the incumbent government, the army veterans went back into agitation mode.
The apathy of the government towards our soldiers is a matter of grave concern for all of us. The attitude of the governments not only hurts the morale of our army but also set in disillusionment in our youth about the army service. It is high time the government did something to restore the faith of our army men. What could be a better start to this noble task than fulfilling the promises long overdue?
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The opinion expressed in the article is of the writer. Writer is a freelance journalist/journalist based in Delhi