Family of a soldier killed in Pulwama terror attack speaks out

On February 14, more than 40 Indian CRPF personnel were killed in a suicide attack by the Pakistan-based terrorist outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad in Pulwama. 11 of the jawans killed were from Uttar Pradesh, and one among them was from the village of Taufapur in Varanasi. His name was Ramesh Yadav, and he had returned to the army headquarters in Pulwama only two days before the attack. After the news of his death became public, scores of people from the village and its surrounding areas gathered at Yadav’s house. Everyone from school students to the elderly were seen marching and shouting slogans of the “amar (immortal)” Ramesh Yadav, and that of the downfall of Pakistan.

“My son sacrificed his life for this country. I have lost one son, but I would still generously offer my second son to protect this nation,” said Shyam Narayan, the father of the late CRPF jawan, “I want the government to offer us a monetary or in-kind compensation, because how else will we survive?” Covering himself with a shawl, he spoke softly but firmly, stating that they were expecting a compensation of Rs 1.5 crore. He also added that the family would not perform Yadav’s last rites until the state’s chief minister paid them a personal visit and offered condolences. “I am old, but I have to take care of one grandson, two daughters-in-law and one brother. We have kept aside the property we own to safeguard our future… for our grandson’s education. I am old, where will I go to work at this age?” he asked in the same quiet tone.

The state government announced a compensation of Rs 25 lakh to each of the families — nowhere close to what Narayan demanded. But as a part of the compensation, the Yogi Adityanath government has announced a job for one member from each soldier's family, something Narayan was in favour of. “I have a daughter-in-law. We helped her complete her BA degree,” he said about Yadav’s wife, “The government should offer her a job in Varanasi or wherever she is eligible. I offer my other son to the nation as well.”

However, Yadav's wife, Renu, in sharp contrast to her father in law’s demeanour, was all anger. “We demand that the government offer a job not only to me but to my son as well. We will both work.” But unlike Narayan, she had no interest in associating with the armed forces: “I refuse to do an army-related job. And my son will never join the army.” She also demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi visit the families of all the deceased soldiers, “Yes, he should. It is all Modi’s fault.” She added by way of explanation, “He is not ruling the nation properly. It is only because of him that I have lost my husband.”

Data released by the Ministry of Home Affairs shows there has been a sharp rise in terror activities between 2014 and 2018, with a 176% jump in terror attacks in the Valley in the same time period. The Pulwama attack has been recognised as the deadliest one in the Valley in the last three decades of Kashmir's insurgency.

“The government needs to act effectively in this matter and counter-attack immediately,” said  Narayan matter-of-factly, “Counter-attacking is the only way to ensure that no terrorist enters Indian territory again and that we are not in a position to lose another braveheart.”

Narayan is also one of the many in the rising tide of people — politicians, entertainment stars and ordinary citizens alike — calling for retaliation. People have been taking to the streets in anything but peaceful marches, raising slogans, calling for revenge against Pakistan. Social media is flooded with war cries. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself not only condemned the attack on CRPF personnel but also gave security forces full freedom to retaliate against the heinous attack.

Ram Kishan Yadav, an ex-district head of Chandauli, justified the response, not in eye for an eye fashion but what he deemed as entirely reasonable: “Terrorists are never stopped by words and discussions. We must speak in their language.” He added, reflecting the mood prevalent in some parts of Uttar Pradesh, “The whole nation is grief-stricken. It is not just their families’ loss, it is the entire nation’s. To ensure that this sacrifice was not in vain, the government needs to act accordingly. It is time for the government to make a big move and finish this once and for all.” According to him, “Words are not enough for a loss of this magnitude.”

As for what the government could do in this situation, he said, “The government must lend help in any way they can. We can see the plight of a farmer whose son has been sacrificed for this nation.”

Since the attack, the Indian government has responded with an encounter, in which three members of the Jaish outfit have been killed.

Khabar Lahariya is a women-only network of rural reporters from Bundelkhand.

 

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Updated Date: Feb 19, 2019 17:18:59 IST