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Our sons will be soldiers, say Gorkha war widows

Posted by Ramesh Khati on August 16, 2009

DARJEELING: Whenever Deepika Mukhia looks at her son, now seven, she can’t help thinking of his father, who so
longed to hold him in his arms but never got to even see him. Deepika’s husband Uttam Mukhia of 17 J&K Rifles
died battling terrorists in Kashmir and was given a Sena Medal for gallantry. The son was born six months later. She named him Utsav (celebration).

Deepika can’t wait for Utsav to grow up and don the olive green. “It is a great honour to serve the country. If you die wearing the uniform, you die a glorious death. I feel satisfied that I have played my part too for the nation. My son will also join the army, as an officer,” said Deepika, who works as a non-teaching staff at the Army School at Ghoom, about 8 km from Darjeeling.

As many as 34 Gorkha soldiers, most of them in their early twenties, have been martyred in Operation Rakshak (counter-insurgency in Kashmir) and the Kargil conflict (Operation Vijay). Casualties do not deter this warrior race. It only spurs war widows to turn their sons into soldiers.

“I have a son who is in Class XI. I would definitely want him to join the army,” said Lalita Rai, widow of havildar Man Bahadur Rai of 6/11 Gorkha Rifles, who laid down his life in the icy heights of Kargil.

It was this unwavering resolve of Gorkha war widows that prompted Lt Gen Chandra Shekher, former vice-chief of army staff and president of the Gorkha Brigade, not to shift the Gorkha Recruiting Depot from Jalapahar in Darjeeling to Gorakhpur (Uttar Pradesh) in 2000. “The war widows submitted a memorandum to the general, requesting him not to shift the Gorkha Recruitment Depot from Darjeeling so that their sons could be enrolled in the army to serve the nation,” said S P Pradhan, secretary of All India Gorkha Ex-Servicemen’s Welfare Association.

Some war widows are upset with government apathy and indifference towards their problems. “We have not got any help from the state government although though my husband gave his life for the country. It is sad that they ignore us,” said Sunita Thapa, widow of lance-naik Rojin Thapa, who died fighting insurgents during Operation Sangram (2002) in the North East.

The likes of Deepika and Lalita may have got some help from the government, but not all have been so fortunate. While Lalita got a small plot at Sukhiapokhari in 2008 and a gas agency in 2003, Deepika received some monetary help from the defence forces. But Sunita says she got nothing. “Last year, I was felicitated with a shawl and a certificate by the Kurseong SDO. But I have to educate my son and look after my in-laws with only Rs 9,000 that I get as pension,”she adds.

“War widows and their children are entitled to benefits like free education, liberalized pension, re-employment and residential land, but these facilities have not yet been provided by the state government,” said Pradhan.

Source:The Times Of  India


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