It takes extraordinary courage to win the Ashok Chakra, the country’s highest peacetime gallantry award.
But that is no guarantee a martyr’s family would get the respect that should accompany the honour.
During the Republic Day ceremony, President Pratibha Patil bestowed Shanti Bohra, 29, with the Ashok Chakra. Shanti and her father-in-law travelled from Jodhpur to receive the award, the peacetime equivalent of the Param Vir Chakra.
But a few hours later, Havildar Bahadur Singh Bohra’s wife and her two daughters, aged five and three, were turned away from the annual Presidential reception, attended by family members of gallantry award winners.
Shanti’s pleas with Rashtrapati Bhavan staff saying she did not know where to leave her daughters, fell on deaf ears.
Said a Rashtrapati Bhavan official not authorised to speak to the media: “At formal functions like these, children are not allowed. Just those invited by name are allowed for security reasons.”
Had the matter been brought to the notice of officials, it could have been resolved, since it involved a highly decorated soldier’s family, he said.
“Some consideration should have been shown towards the lady. Where was she supposed leave her kids?” asked an outraged army officer.
Bohra, a squad commander of 10 Para (Special Forces), led counter-terrorist operations in Kashmir’s Lawanz area. Last September, he engaged heavily armed terrorists and killed three of them despite several gunshot wounds. His citation reads: “Bohra displayed most conspicuous bravery and made the supreme sacrifice...”