17 years on, martyred Indian army officer yet to be honoured, says father
Seventeen years after he lost his life fighting a gun battle with terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir, Major Yogesh Gupta is yet to be honoured, says his septuagenarian Ved Prakash Gupta.
Major Gupta was asked to carry out search and occupy operations at a post in Surankote in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district as part of Operation Prachand Prahar during Operation Parakram on July 12, 2002. In the ensuing gunfight, despite severe abdominal gunshot wounds, he engaged the terrorists for six hours and eliminated four of them, states the casualty report of the 25th battalion of the Madras Regiment. Five hardcore terrorists were killed in the battle.
“My wife died knowing her son will not return, after waiting endlessly for his memory and sacrifice to be remembered,” says Ved Prakash. “The officers of my son’s unit who came for his cremation said he would get the Ashok Chakra. Nothing happened,” he rues.
A retired bank manager, Ved Prakash says any award to be given to war heroes is announced after suitable recommendations from their units, the 25th battalion of the Madras Regiment in this case.
Strangely, he says he was told the citations for the gallantry awards sent through suitable channels were lost or misplaced.
“I asked questions and discovered that though a citation for Ashok Chakra was forwarded by his unit, it did not reach Army Headquarters as the documents were lost in transit or due to some oversight,” Ved Prakash said.
“The responses I have got from Army Headquarters indicate that no gallantry award can be given in the absence of these recommendations,” he explained.
However, officials of Major Gupta’s unit told his father that there were no records at present held by the unit recommending a gallantry award for him.
Lesser acts of gallantry have resulted in some kind of posthumous gallantry award for army officers, Ved Prakash said, but Army Headquarters pleaded that the military secretary’s ranch had not received the citation, and that it was not feasible to process the same at this belated stage.
He then questioned how the sacrifice of a man’s life for the nation can remain unrecognised just because of an oversight or loss of documents.
“How can the battle casualty report not matter?” he asked.
Defence ministry spokesperson Col Aman Anand, when contacted, said what motivated the troops to face adversity “is our national pride and not the desire of gallantry awards”.
“Selection for gallantry awards goes through an extremely elaborate system,” he said.
Ved Prakash said the delay was procedural in nature and cannot be pressed in service to deny legitimate dues, more so, since it is a lapse on part of the unit/formation(s) concerned.
“In fact, in the armies of most democracies, gallantry awards are conferred even centuries after a qualifying act. In any case, practically speaking, the claim cannot be even treated as time-barred since the documentation pertaining to my son’s gallant act itself did not reach the correct authority due to loss in transit/oversight, and hence, the clock can only be considered to have started ticking from the date this oversight is corrected by the concerned authority,” he pleaded.