The Uphaar case judgment has no meaning for octogenarian Capt. (retd.) Vardip Singh and his wife Gurnam Kaur. Having lost their only son, Capt. Manjinder Singh Bhinder, his wife Jyotroop and four-year-old son Ruskin, in the cinema inferno, they are now condemned to miserable solitude in their old age.
The couple, settled at Chowk Mehta, 40 km from here, found more distress than solace in Tuesday’s judgment. “What comments should I give on a lame-duck judgment? We were expecting exemplary punishment. But would the influential people, who transferred the case from one court to another, allow justice to prevail?” asked Capt. Vardip Singh. The couple haven’t forgotten the ignominy that followed their tragedy; they had to run from pillar to post for the pension they were entitled to.
Their son, a top horse rider, saved more than 150 lives before death claimed him in the inferno. His heroism remains unsung. The Army refused to recognise his sacrifice, saying he was on leave on that day. Successive governments found Capt. M.S. Bhinder unfit for a civilian gallantry award for reasons best known to them.
“We have noticed a number of cases in which the savior of one or two lives is produced before the President to get a gallantry award. What was wrong with the sacrifice of my son, who without caring about his family and parents, repeatedly pushed himself into the inferno to save more than 150 lives?” asked Capt Vardip Singh.
Chowk Mehta won’t forget its son so easy, though. A sports stadium and a memorial gate has come up in the town in memory of their hero.
Heroism comes naturally to the Bhinders. “Our family produced six freedom fighters. My son also laid his life saving others. I am proud of what they all did. But I pity the system which has left us struggling for survival and that too in wretched solitude,” Capt. Vardip Singh said.