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Fast ends after Akhilesh prod

New Delhi/Lucknow, Jan. 14: The mother and wife of the soldier beheaded by Pakistani troops called off their four-day-old fast today after the Uttar Pradesh chief minister visited their home in Shernagar, 500km west of Lucknow.

Akhilesh Yadav announced a Rs 25-lakh compensation and promised development measures for the village and a memorial to the slain lance naik, 32-year-old Hem Raj.

Pakistani troops had crossed the Line of Control on January 8 and killed Hem Raj and fellow lance naik Sudhakar Singh in the Mendhar sector. Hem Raj’s family have been fasting since January 10 demanding that his severed head be brought back from across the border.

As the BJP touted how its Madhya Pradesh government had honoured Sudhakar, a resident of that state, as a martyr, Akhilesh faced criticism for his “unresponsiveness” to Hem Raj’s tragedy.

Uttar Pradesh government sources said Akhilesh had been preoccupied with the Kumbh mela and wanted to ensure that nothing untoward happened during the first shahi snan this morning.

After the holy dips began smoothly in Allahabad, the chief minister headed to Shernagar with minister Aridaman Singh, who hails from the area, and a couple of senior officials.

He announced a primary school for the village, a road connecting Shernagar to nearby Mathura town, and “all-round development” (such as electricity, water and health facilities) for the area.

Akhilesh wound up his visit by offering milk to the women and requesting them to end their fast, which they did.

Tension had been escalating by the day with some television channels and the BJP calling for “drastic” action against Pakistan in retaliation for the beheading.

Asked if the Centre had requested Akhilesh to travel to Shernagar, a senior state government source said: “No, the CM made up his own mind a couple of days ago.”

Akhilesh played the visit down, saying there was nothing political about it. “It is our duty to respect and honour our martyrs. No compensation is enough. But it is the duty of the government to support the family,” he said.