Martyred and Quartered
It has been said that people remember their Gods and soldiers only in times of great danger. I have written about this before in my article: “Fading Memories and Forgotten Heroes” last year and I am writing about this again today as public memory is woefully short and this is an issue that merits mulling over again both by citizens in general and those in power in particular. Every country today maintains its own fighting forces and every country in the world invariably remembers its war veterans and martyrs and also ensures a permanent place of honour for them by naming important landmarks in its towns and cities after them.
Considering our unique and rather shameful attitude of forgetting our martyrs and war veterans it is indeed heartening that tomorrow on the occasion of our Republic Day we at Mysore are honouring three war heroes hailing from our city who have been recipients of the Veer Chakra for the bravery and valour they displayed during the 1965 and 1971 Indo – Pak wars. This gesture makes this year’s Republic Day celebration unique for all Mysoreans and it is indeed a proud moment for us. This is thankfully due to the initiative taken by a former soldier M. N. Subramani who has successfully prevailed upon the district administration to include this ceremony in tomorrow’s programme.
Subramani was my class fellow and close friend during our PUC days at St. Philomena’s College in the early seventies. Being a keen marksman he was the only close contender with me for the first place in Rifle shooting during our stint in the NCC. After this brief interlude with the uniform and the rifle he decided to continue his love affair by enlisting in the army while I decided to study on and become a doctor donning the white coat.
Although just a humble sergeant he has ever since his discharge from the army been actively striving to ensure proper post-retirement benefits to ex-servicemen by starting the Vekare Ex – Servicemen Trust in the city which among its other welfare activities has been campaigning for the establishment of a separate war memorial in the city to perpetuate the memory of all our soldiers who have laid down their lives in the call of duty. Thanks to his efforts, for the first time we saw a helicopter showering rose petals on the marching contingents at one of our Independence day parades and also at one of the Dasara air shows.
When we come to think of it, although we already have a freedom fighters’ park and are in the process of soon getting a proper memorial for our police martyrs, we do not have in our city any landmark designated as a memorial to our soldiers who have died and who are sadly continuing to die on different disturbed fronts. This lacuna becomes more poignant and painful when we consider the fact that nearly a dozen young soldiers from our own city and district have laid down their lives in wars and cross-border strife after independence.
It is said that only the brave die young. Except for the Squadron Leader Devaiah Bhavan which was also established rather belatedly again only due to the efforts of our friend Subramani, we have nothing named after these nameless heroes in the city of their birth to record their noble sacrifice and perpetuate their memory. While we are quick in naming and renaming our roads, circles, parks and other landmarks after our innumerable politicians many of whom have actually not done much good for our society, we have somehow forgotten our martyrs.
Although it may seem like a very easy and simple job to get the government to name a road or landmark after a martyr, in reality it is not so, with all the red – tape one has to untangle in the process. I am saying this from my personal futile experience over the past six years in getting our corporation and district administration to name a road or circle as a tribute to my brother-in-law Maj. S. M. Khan Ghori, a former student of the Maharaja’s College, who laid down his life at the age of 40 on 1st July 2001 while fighting insurgency in Kashmir. I have walked through all the corridors of power, meeting all the people, both high and low, who have all been reassuring me that it will be soon be done while they play the inevitable game of ‘musical chairs’ with their posts.
Maj Ghori, an Artillery officer of the 172 field regiment with nineteen years of service including four years in the Indian Air Force, had served in all the disturbed areas including the North-East and had received a special commendation from the President of India. When he died while on deputation to the Rashtria Rifles he received one of the best Military funerals I have ever seen. With his father serving as the warden of the Muslim Hostel in Saraswathipuram, he used to live in the warden’s quarters next to the fire station and as a student everyday he used to walk to the Maharaja’s College along the road that passes in front of the Hostel and the Ursu Boarding School and he also used to play cricket in the Maharaja’s college grounds.
In a gesture that would be sentimentally appropriate to the memory of his sacrifice, I had suggested to the City Corporation to name this as yet nameless stretch of road from the Fire Station to the Ramaswamy Circle, which passes in front of his favourite haunts after him. The file pertaining to this matter though fattened by all the relevant documents that I was asked to furnish from time to time, now lies under layers of dust with the note of approval written on it by the former corporation commissioner A. B. Ibrahim. The former Deputy Commissioner Selva Kumar who had also appreciated the move and who had promised appropriate action in this matter has since been transferred. While the monetary compensation and allotment of residential sites or quarters to war widows may fulfill their worldly needs these compensatory measures do nothing to perpetuate the memory of soldiers slain on the battlefield.
It is time we thought of drawing up a list of all the martyrs from our district and honouring them by suitably naming our land-marks without any further delay.
Dr. K. Javeed Nayeem
Courtesy: Star of Mysore