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Tears and laughter

Sir — Ganga Devi, widow of assistant sub-inspector Nanak Chand, has become the nemesis of India’s political classes. Last week she broke through a security cordon to convey to politicians certain fundamental emotions that the people must have felt for years. It is true that condolence meetings, organized to honour martyrs, have become a farce. It is customary for politicians to make grand speeches at these gatherings, although these may lack in sincerity and sobriety (“A slap in India’s fake face” Dec 14). Parliamentarians observe the routine two-minute silence following terrorist attacks, natural calamities or accidents, and then go back to their intemperate ways. At public meetings to remember the dead, ministers are either seen preening themselves before the television cameras or laughing at some private joke. Hopefully, after Ganga Devi’s outburst, they would show more prudence.

Yours faithfully,
A.S. Mehta, Calcutta

Sir — It is needless to speculate whether it was the Opposition that had provoked Ganga Devi to speak out or if she had done so on her own. The fact remains that she had to wait for six years after the death of her husband to get the promised petrol pump from the government. Why should the wife of a martyr be forced to make the rounds of government offices for what is her due? To top it all, instead of feeling ashamed of their neglect of duty, some politicians have been shameless enough to point fingers at the Opposition. As for their conduct in public condolence meetings, the less said the better. However, Rahul Gandhi must be given the credit for hearing out the widow instead of making a quick exit from the embarrassing scene.

Yours faithfully,
Govind Das Dujari, Calcutta

Sir — The indifference of the United Progressive Alliance government has been exposed by Ganga Devi’s passionate outburst at a function to commemorate those killed in the 2001 attack on Parliament. However, it is not only the UPA which has dishonoured the memory of the security personnel by failing to provide appropriate compensation to their families. Previous dispensations have been equally impervious. Neglected by the government for years, Ganga Devi must have been desperate enough to violate the security and convey her discontent to the assembled ministers.

Yours faithfully,
Vijayalakshmi G., Chennai

Sir — It is shameful that a supposedly civilized nation like India should fail to honour those who have given their lives for the country. Surely, widows of other martyrs share Ganga Devi’s feelings. By standing up to injustice, she has become the mouthpiece of others similarly wronged. Days back, the only reason why the media took interest in the commemoration of the attack on Parliament was its relation with Narendra Modi’s aggressive anti-UPA campaign in Gujarat. Hopefully, with Ganga Devi, the issue will be revived for all the right reasons.

Yours faithfully,
Srikanta Bhattacharjee, Calcutta

Sir — Ganga Devi deserves to be praised for giving politicians a piece of her mind. Luckily, the media too caught on her at the right moment, which helped her win the sympathy of the entire nation. One wonders if her example will make the ministers and bureaucrats more sensitive towards people who come to them for help. Like Ganga Devi there are countless other war widows, families of martyrs, and injured servicemen who are awaiting justice and rightful compensation. It is necessary to reach out to them and address their grievance against the State .

Yours faithfully,
Pallabi Paul, Guwahati

Sir — There are two questions that Ganga Devi has left for our politicians to answer. First, what good is it to remember the national heroes for only one day each year and then forget them for the rest of the year? Second, is it possible to show respect for these martyrs by organizing elaborate ceremonies when their families go unfed and live in a constant state of insecurity? It is doubtful that Ganga Devi’s outcry will bring an enduring change in the political system. But even if nothing changes, the fact that politicians have been put in an uncomfortable situation can be considered to be some kind of a victory for the citizens of this country.

Yours faithfully,
Sayantani Kundu, New Delhi

Sir — Since the 2001 Parliament attack, we have made it a point to observe that fateful day with much fanfare. The purpose behind such occasions, it appears, is to ensure that the unsung martyrs are sidelined in the course of the ceremony while parliamentarians get their share of the limelight and get to show their patriotic zeal. The reward for heroism is token celebrity speeches. The near and dear ones of martyrs can forget about official recognition and compensation.

Every year, when they congregate to remember the dead, the VVIPs behave outrageously — smiling and joking among themselves — while the family of the deceased shed tears. The sixth anniversary of the Parliament attack made this amply clear. Priya Ranjan Das Munshi’s ungracious tone, while speaking on the widow of Nanak Chand, deserves to be condemned. A person left with next to nothing can hardly be called ‘resentful’, especially when her demands are perfectly justifiable. If parliamentarians are entitled to pension for life after a full term in office, Nanak Chand and his compatriots deserve more than a pittance for protecting the lives of the MPs. Garlanding a statue alone does not mean that justice has been done to the family members of the bereaved soldiers.

Yours faithfully,
Subhankar Mukherjee, Burdwan

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