LEST WE FORGET

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Valentines Day 14 Feb.2019 turned out to be a very sad day for India when an unthinking stripling of a lad drove his explosives-laden SUV into a convoy of CRPF, bringing death to 44 young jawans hailing from almost 16 states across India and mutilation and misery to many more.

Adding to the woes of the bereaved families many a young widow could not even have the last glimpse of her slain husband! The young families suddenly bereft of their providers see no hope but a bleak future.

It was sad that a mouthful of platitudes spouting forth on the social media and some inconspicuous gatherings here and there were all that seemed to happen to comfort the bereaved ones. Neither did the powers that be deemed it fit to organize a common platform for the public, to express disbelief, grief and  support to the bereaved kin of our fallen heroes, the Pulwama Martyrs!

Is it so difficult to remember the sacrifices of our bravehearts?

Not so; thought Colours  of Glory Foundation  championed by Veteran, Capt. D P Ramachandran, who in conjunction with the Thennai Trust founded by Senior Advocate Mr. R Sankaranarayanan and S Foundation the Founding Trustee of which is Advocate Ms. Sumathi, convened a simple, yet heart-wrenchingly poignant meeting along with a ‘Candlelight Vigil’ in memory of the fallen soldiers at Olcott Memorial School, Besant Nagar the past Sunday (24 February) evening.

What left a lasting impression was that the speakers, without exception, spoke from their heart in an  achingly  touching manner highlighting the bravery, grit and stoicism of the young men who have laid down their lives for the rest of India, their young families in mourning and of children yet unborn. Capt Ramachandran squarely condemned the spate of attacks on Kashmiris by some lumpen elements. By indulging in such behaviour we are playing right into the hands of the terrorists, he said, because that’s what exactly the terrorists want; to divide and destabilize us. Mr. Faizur Rahman, Founder of the Islamic Forum for promotion of Moderate Thought, gave us rare insights into the Islamic way of thought. He pointed out that the very title of the terrorist outfit “Jaish e Mohammad” meaning “Army of the Prophet” is an absolute contradiction in itself because the Prophet stood for ALL HUMANITY IN PEACE. Stressing on unity within the country, he said that the Muslims of India are deeply hurt when aspersions are cast from some quarters on the loyalty of their community to the nation. These are people, he said, who had taken a conscious decision to make India their home and not Pakistan when they had a choice to do that at the time of partition in 1947; which should never have taken place in the first place. Therefore, our Muslims, he asserted, are just as patriotic as the rest of their countrymen or more. Sarah, a student of the SIET college (and winner of the ‘Marathal Thagumo’ – ‘Can We Forget’ – annual intercollegiate elocution competition that has the sacrifices of the Indian Soldiers as its theme) spoke eloquently of the outrage and sorrow she felt. A Muslim herself, she denounced the cowardly act of the terrorists who claimed themselves to be Muslims and wondered what kind of depravity would have gone into convincing a 22-year old to turn a suicide death dealer. Then there was Wg Cdr K R Visweawaran, a helicopter pilot of yore and veteran of high altitude flying, who choked with emotion as he narrated the travails of service in the remote corners of our land, and a heartbreaking choice he was forced to make once, when he was a young officer, between two equally distressed soldiers for evacuation, because his copter could carry only one.

Across the spectrum what surfaced was the fact that India is ONE with its security forces, no matter what the politicos have to say. There were unspoken thoughts in everyone’s heart. How best can we help? 

The sombre mood was genuine, simple and sad. Hordes of young adolescents attended the evening and the vigil, ready to share the burdens with the veterans who stood up for the cause. Epitomizing the intense sentiment of the society at large was Sri Muthu, an audio electrician of modest means who provided the PA system for the event, refusing to accept payment for his service, calling it his ‘humble contribution’ towards the “Anjali” for the fallen heroes. People from all walks of life rubbed shoulders with veteran officers of the armed forces.

As a finale, the candles were lit and placed below the banner carrying the portraits of the 44 brave young men. I swear I could  hear the ‘last post’  ringing in my ears, in a solemn reminder that they did not die in vain.

With the spirited singing of the National Anthem, the evening drew to a close as darkness enveloped the premises, leaving twinkling candles as a poignant yet potent and silent reminder that we cannot forget and dismiss the supreme sacrifices our Young soldiers have made for India. They have died today for all our Tomorrows!

 Jai Hind!

PREMILLA RAJAN
The author, Mrs. Premilla Rajan, is an army wife, an educationalist and a freelance writer
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