The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Govt terror for Kargil widow
Shakuntala Devi

Lucknow, Aug. 11: Five years ago, Naik Chaman Singh died on the icy peak of Tololing fighting infiltrators. Today, in front of the chief minister’s residence in Lucknow, his entire family nearly joined him on the Kargil martyrs’ stand.

Shakuntala Devi poured kerosene on herself and her two boys, one 12 and the other seven, and tried to set herself afire — admitting defeat in the fight against the ubiquitous entity called the State.

“God, take me to my husband,” the 36-year-old Kargil widow screamed as she lit a matchstick and touched it to her dress at the gate of 5 Kalidas Marg. Women security guards posted at Mulayam Singh Yadav’s residence rushed to Shakuntala and overpowered her.

A portion of her salwar kameez had started burning but the fire was put out before it caused any damage.

She said later it had become “impossible to carry on a battle against vested interests to acquire land allotted to her and restart her life after the death of her husband”.

Chaman Singh, a jawan of the Rajputana Rifles, died on June 13, 1999.

Shakuntala was given some 25 bighas of land, but in five different spots far from her village, which she was trying to get the government to consolidate into a single plot closer home at Hapur in Meerut district. She had also been given a licence for a petrol pump, but could not acquire the land on which to put it up.

The sons of Shakuntala Devi, the widow of Kargil martyr Chaman Singh who attempted self-immolation near the Uttar Pradesh chief minister’s official residence, at a police station in Lucknow on Wednesday. (PTI)

“My husband laid down his life like a hero. But when I go to government officers with my case, I am treated like dirt,” she said, breaking down.

Her story is similar to the plight of a character in a Bollywood film, Dhoop, played by Om Puri as the father of a Kargil martyr.

It was only after Shakuntala attempted to kill herself that the state government got moving. “I have been running from pillar to post in the land revenue department pleading with officials to get me an alternative plot in one place. Is that too much of a demand'” she asked.

Shakuntala went on to narrate how she had also failed to acquire the land for the petrol pump. “It took me two years to get the allotment of land in the Noida area. I went several times to the office of the Noida Development Authority. Rows of officers who sit there listen to my pleadings but nothing moves,” she said, sobbing.

Last year, Rajasthan University conducted a survey on 55 Kargil widows. In one case, a widow refused to take the offer of a petrol pump. Asked why, she said: “Everybody has become my enemy. If I take the petrol pump, somebody else will take it away from me.”

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