Hours after remarking that jawans are “expected to be ready to attain martyrdom” and there was nothing special about their funeral, Bihar rural works minister Bhim Singh had to eat crow on Thursday.
The comment -- coming ahead of the funeral of four jawans from Bihar who died in an ambush at the LoC on Tuesday -- left the JD(U) red-faced, forcing even chief minister Nitish Kumar to tender a public apology.
“When people join the army or the police, they go there knowing they may attain martyrdom. They (the jawans) were there on duty. They were not there as private citizens,” Singh told reporters in the morning. He had apparently lost his cool when he was asked why a single minister wasn’t present to receive the bodies on Wednesday.
But no sooner had the statement been aired, the Opposition was up in arms, demanding the minister’s head for what it described as “unprecedented crass remarks”.
“The statement is calculated to humiliate our martyrs. The minister should be dismissed immediately,” said RJD parliamentarian and spokesperson Ram Kripal Yadav.
“Our jawans sacrifice their lives not just to do a job but to keep our borders safe. If we can’t give them respect, let’s not at least humiliate them,” said BJP’s Nand Kishore Yadav, leader of the opposition in the Bihar assembly.
Embarrassed, Kumar, who was in Delhi, directed Singh to immediately issue an unconditional apology. Later, on reaching the Patna airport, he described the remark as “most unfortunate” and said he too apologized for it.
He said minor irrigation minister Awadhesh Prasad Kushwaha was present at the funerals of two of the slain jawans in Saran district of north Bihar on Thursday.
“Similarly, food minister Shyam Rajak was present at the funeral of another jawan in Bhojpur and industry minister Renu Kumari attended the last rights of a slain soldier at Bihta (Patna)”, Choudhary stated.
However, BJP national vice-president CP Thakur and former minister Giriraj Singh said the absence of JD(U) ministers at the airport to receive the bodies of the four slain jawans “showed a lack of sensitivity”.