Today, I was inconsolable when I read Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi’s message to Priyanka Rai, saying, “I know what it is to lose a beloved husband to a terrorist attack, and for children to be robbed of the love and guidance of their father at a young age. You must draw strength from the fact that your husband died fighting terrorism and defending his country till his last breath, and that his supreme sacrifice and martyrdom will always be honoured.”
I can feel now what Sonia Gandhi has gone through and what Priyanka Rai has to go through. It’s really painful when one even thinks of it. Emotions ran high as Colonel Munindra Nath Rai was killed by millitants in Kashmir. His 11-year-old daughter choked up as she shouted her father’s regiment’s old battle cry, then raised her right hand to salute him for the last time as she burst into tears. Colonel Rai’s wife was grief-stricken, while his six-year-old son couldn’t probably comprehend the loss. Alka, Rai’s eldest daughter, whose war cry led to the Gorkha officers and soldiers repeating it several times over.
Even as India paid its last respects to late Col M N Rai martyred in anti-terror operations in Jammu and Kashmir, the Central government which claims to have adopted a strong stand on security related issues was conspicuously missing from the scene. Several senior Army officers including Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag were present to pay homage to Colonel Rai, but no senior minister from the Central government showed up to offer their respects to the martyr or offer condolences to his family.
The cremation took place in the national capital and senior ministers including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikkar were present in New Delhi, not even a single representative from the government arrived at the cremation ground to place a garland on the martyr’s body. Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been claiming to have maintained a tough stand on Pakistan sponsored terror activities and had attacked the Congress-led UPA regime for maintaining a soft stand on security related issues.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had in January 2014 said that India should get at least 10 heads of Pakistani soldiers after Indian trooper Lance Naik Hemraj of Rajputana Rifles was beheaded during a border skirmish in Jammu and Kashmir. Singh was killed on the Line of Control (LoC) and his severed head was allegedly paraded by the Pakistan Army. While, the Uttar Pradesh government announced a compensation of Rs. 30 lakh for Col Rai’s family as he was a native of Derhgava village in Sohaval area of the state’s Ghazipur district, the Central government is yet to do so.
Colonel Munindra Nath Rai, the commanding officer of 42 Rashtriya Rifles, was martyred along with Jammu and Kashmir Police constable Sanjeev Singh in an encounter with Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists in Tral area of Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir. Commissioned into the 2/9 Gorkha Rifles, the 39-year-old Colonel was honoured with a Yudh Sena Medal on Republic Day, just a day before he was killed in the encounter.
No senior ministers from the Central government showed up to offer their respects to the martyr or offer condolences to his family. Representative from Modi’s council of ministers should be present during the cremation of the martyrs, when they laid their life in the worst terror fight against Pakistan sponsored terror outfit. This will be a consolation to the family of the martyr. Moreover, this act will boost the morale of the soldiers; who are fighting along the borders to protect us. After all, these council of ministers are there as the representatives of people and people have voted for them. Nothing will happen but their presence would have given moral support to the family.
People have written open letters to Modi, pointing the following questions. Let’s see whether he answers their query or not.
- 1. Was your entire cabinet Ministers, MoS, other political appointees equivalently holding Cabinet / MoS ranks so busy that they could not attend his funeral?
- 2. Was hugging, cuddling and dressing up for President Obama more engaging for you than paying obeisance to the brave heart?
- 3. Was the entire BJP (which claims to be extremely nationalist) so engaged in debating with Arvind Kejriwal that they just counted the slain Colonel as a simply dead soul?
- 4. Except for the army’s top brass, there was hardly any Cabinet /MoS to share condolences with the grieving family, so should the people conclude that your ministry just berates soldiers and their sacrifices?
- 5. Further to the same, with this kind of behaviour exhibited by you and your cabinet Johnnies, why should our soldiers protect you and your cronies? Remember your life, freedom and liberty is also a gift which you have got due to the price which these soldiers have paid.
- 6. You and your Johnnies might be great at giving speeches and hugging foreign nationals, but then why didn’t you / your defence minster put out a 2 minute press brief / interaction expressing sympathy for Col. Rai’s family?
- 7. You may be good at wooing audiences with your hollow big talks, but do you have the guts to pick up an AK rifle and face a terrorist?
- 8. How many close relatives have you lost in anti-terrorist / military operations?
- 9. Do you have the wherewithal of coming out of your SPG cover and face a hail of bullets and defending your country in reality?
I am sorry to say, but Col. Rai had all the above. The martyr never expected anything, but gave up everything. The least which could have been done is having your Defence Minister and some other Cabinet colleagues of yours (who otherwise are nicely ensconced themselves in their plush offices, protect themselves with a cover of para military personnel and move around in beaconed cars) to attend the funeral. This would have showed solidarity and respect to the aggrieved family. Even, a clear message would have gone to the terrorists that in such moments the government doesn’t operate within ivory towers. Mind you! He was not in the valley on tourism purpose. He was there to protect his motherland. He could have also ducked his duty but he preferred to be on ground and fight the terrorist. He was there to accept the martyrdom with his supreme sacrifice.
Now, any corrective measures and image saving exercise will be considered as too late. Shame on you, Mr. Modi!