Memories of supreme sacrifices by 368 Punjab home guards personnel killed in action since the 1971 India-Pakistan war had almost faded. It was the July 27 dawn-to-dusk Gurdaspur terror strike, in which three home guards men laid down their lives, that brought these unsung heroes to the centrestage. And on Wednesday, their martyrdom received a fitting tribute as a memorial dedicated to home guards was thrown open on the outskirts of SAS Nagar district.
The spirit behind this memorial, Satish Kumar Sharma, director general-cum-commandant general, home guards, and director, civil defence, Punjab, had conceived the idea of setting up a memorial when reports began pouring in of three home guards personnel — Bodh Raj, Desh Raj and Sukhdev Singh — being killed by Pakistani terrorists holed up in the Dinanagar police station.
The 1983-batch Punjab-cadre Indian Police Service (IPS) officer laid the first wreath, coinciding the opening of the memorial with his superannuation on Wednesday after an illustrious 32-year-service during which he had actively and from the front taken part in numerous anti-terror operations when the border state was in the grip of militancy.
The names of 371 home guards martyrs till July 27 have been engraved on the redstone memorial designed on the lines of the India Gate. In the 1971 war, 11 volunteers of the home guards laid down their lives. Sixty of them had died in 1989 while smashing anti-terror modules, 114 in 1990 and 105 in 1991.
“Those who forget their past cannot make the future better,” remarked the police officer after taking the final salute before hanging his boots from the home guards contingent which was wearing its ceremonial best.
Sharma said: “The day the Dinanagar attack happened, it occurred to me that there is no memorial for home guards martyrs. I have been a witness to the valour and sacrifice of these volunteers during the days of terrorism. A beginning has been made and I am hopeful that the rest of work on the memorial will be completed soon.”
The issue of the home guards volunteers’ salary hike is gathering dust in the finance department. Presently, a volunteer is paid Rs 446 a day, while a Punjab police constable is paid double, with a salary of about Rs 28,000 per month.
“Punjab director general of police (DGP) Sumedh Singh Saini has taken a bold and commendable initiative by recruiting more than 300 eligible youths from families of police martyrs. This decision has further cemented public connect with police. Something similar should also be done for the kin of home guards martyrs,” hoped Sharma.