The George Cross gallantry medal posthumously awarded to World War II hero Naik Kirpa Ram will finally return to India with the British high commission announcing the medal would be hand over to his 89-year-widow, Brahmi Devi, in her native Bhapral village.
“I’ve spent ten long years without having any the memento of my husband and prayed every day the medal would be restored to me. I express my gratitude to the media as well as all those who helped me in my persevering efforts to persuade the British government to return it,” an overjoyed Devi told this reporter over the phone.
Fifteen years ago Devi had filed a complaint with the local police that a gallantry medal awarded to her husband by British Emperor George VI when she was just 13 years old had been stolen from her home in Bhapral. However, the police soon closed the case saying no item had been found stolen from her house. The issue was revived again in 2009 after reports that the "stolen" medal was to be auctioned in London by a former Indian army soldier, Ashok Nath. The news alerted the Himachal government following which the auction was halted.
Later, a group of Indians residing in Britain came forward to help Devi in her efforts to retrieve the medal by contesting at the Queen’s bench division of the High Court of Justice in London. They contributed 12,000 pounds to the medal’s claimant, Nath, before December 2013 as was ordered by the court. In 2009 the court finally ruled in Devi’s favour. However, in a June 3, 2013 order, the court asked the defendant (Devi) to pay Nath 12,000 pounds for litigation costs on or before December 31, 2013. The court also ruled that in the event of a default on the payment by the due date it would be enforceable by Nath against the defendant.
Naik Kirpa Ram was serving in the 8th Battalion of the 13th Frontier Force Rifles, British Indian Army, when he was killed in a battlefield. His widow, then aged just 13, had received the medal from the then Viceroy of India, Field Marshal Lord Wavell, in 1946. A British officer of the Frontier Force Rifles had escorted the shy and illiterate widow at the ceremony. Devi took the medal back to Ram’s native village in Bilaspur district.
Devi’s nephew, who liaising on her behalf in the proceedings on her behalf, thanked the British authorities as well the UK high commission in India for their assistance in bringing back the medal. “We’re also grateful to the state government, especially Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, for their persistent efforts in taking up the case with the British high commission,” he said, adding the function at which the medal will be returned to Devi would be held at a school ground in Bhapral on May 11.
Meanwhile, chief parliamentary secretary and local MLA Rajesh Dharmani demanded a state function should be held on the occasion.