Written by Man Aman Singh Chhina | Chandigarh | Published: June 11, 2020 10:07:23 pm
Security personnel stand near a Army camp in Handwara (Express photo by Shuaib Masoodi)
The family of an Army officer who laid down his life battling terrorists in Handwara, has started an online signature petition demanding that the next of kin of those who die in the line of duty should at least get a letter regarding the sacrifice from the elected representatives of the people including the President and the prime minister of India and the chief minister and governor of the concerned state.
The online petition by Major Anuj Sood’s family on Change.org is being shared widely on social media platforms. The brief remarks on the petition titled “Respect by elected representatives to martyrs of armed forces” states that not only should elected representatives be in touch with the kin of the soldiers but that the highest office bearers at Centre and in state should also pen a letter to them for the sacrifice made.
Major Sood, a former student of Punjab Public School, Nabha, and an alumnus of National Defence Academy, had died fighting in a counter terrorism operation in Jammu and Kashmir’s Handwara on May 3 along with the Commanding Officer of 21 Rashtriya Rifles, two other personnel of the unit and an Assistant Sub Inspector of Jammu and Kashmir Police.
Speaking to The Indian Express, his father, Brig CK Sood (retd), said that it was sad that there was no such tradition in the country where the representatives of the people put their feelings on record regarding sacrifices made by soldiers.
“There was a time when the elected representatives used to write a letter to the next of kin of those who laid down their life in any armed conflict. I have in my possession a letter written by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to the family of Capt PS Sagar of 2 Grenadiers who died blunting the Chinese attack at Nathu La in 1967. The handwritten letter in Hindi appreciates his sacrifice and expresses thanks for his courage,” said Brig Sood.
Brig Sood also showed a post card that his family had received from a private security guard based in Surat. Motivated by the sacrifice and valour of Indian soldiers killed in the 1999 Kargil War, Jitendra Singh Gurjar has been sending post cards of gratitude to all the fallen men. “This man (Gurjar) does it for all martyrs. And our elected representatives need to be reminded. There is no need for them to visit the next of kin. Stop the charade and scoring brownie points. A letter is enough,” he says.
He states that till date he has only received letters from the Union Home Minister Amit Shah and the Army’s chain of command in Jammu and Kashmir. “The Home Minister has written as Rashtriya Rifles is a paramilitary force and he addressed it correctly to the next of kin, which is Anuj’s wife. However, not a single word has come from Maharashtra government despite the fact that our family is based in Pune. I came to Pinjore in Haryana only for constructing a new house. Else my son and daughter-in-law used to be in Pune when he was home on leave. It is my permanent address after retirement from Army,” he said.
Major Sood is survived by his wife Akriti, whom he had married just two months before being posted to Jammu and Kashmir. His tenure in the unit was over but his departure had to be postponed due to Covid-19 travel restrictions. He had planned to take his wife to his new posting in May.
Brig Sood says that the family decided to float an online petition just weeks after the death of Anuj. “We decided to do this in the last week of May. The petition has got some traction in first week of June. I hope this pushes the government to institutionalise a mechanism where the next of kin are recognised for the sacrifices of their loved ones,” he says.
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