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regular-article-logo Saturday, 15 June 2024

Pulwama attack: Families of two CRPF jawans from Bengal seek truth

'Four years have passed and the Centre has remained silent on the denial of aircraft to the jawans'

Subhasish Chaudhuri Calcutta Published 19.04.23, 04:31 AM
Satya Pal Malik.

Satya Pal Malik. File Photo

The families of the two CRPF jawans from Bengal who died in the February 2019 Pulwama attack want to know the “truth”, agitated by then Jammu and Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik’s comments in a recent interview.

Malik has alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had shut him up when he blamed the Centre’s lapses for the deaths, and highlighted the Union home ministry’s refusal of aircraft that had forced the convoy to travel by road.

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Four years after a car bomb killed Sudip Biswas of Tehatta (Nadia) and Bablu Santra of Bauria (Howrah) — along with 38 others — these allegations have reopened the wounds of their families.

Sudip, then aged 28, was a constable with the CRPF’s 98 Battalion. He was travelling on a bus with colleagues who included Bablu, 40, the head constable of 35 Battalion. Bablu was counting the days before he retired and returned home following the completion of 20 years’ service.

“I don’t know what actually happened,” said farmer Sanyasi Biswas, 68, Sudip’s father. “In these four years, I have heard many things about lapses in security arrangements. But nothing definite has so far come out.”

Sanyasi and his ailing wife Mamata, 63, live with their daughter Jhumpa and son-in-law Samapta at Hanspukuria village in Tehatta.

While Sudip’s parents are waiting to learn about the lapses that killed their son and those responsible for it, his sister Jhumpa believes that the truth will never come out.

“Four years have passed and the Centre has remained silent on the denial of aircraft to the jawans,” she said.

“The Centre should come clean. But it has little meaning for us, it only reminds me about losing my brother.”

Sudip’s parents now survive on the “financial compensation” paid to them for their son’s death. Samapta, 35, runs a hardware shop and takes care of his elderly in-laws.

“It’s true that the government and a few other organisations have paid ample financial compensation for my parents to live a decent life. But after losing their son, comfort has little meaning for them,” Jhumpa said.

Apart from the Rs 35 lakh that the Centre paid as ex gratia to the next of kin of the Pulwama victims, each of these families received approximately Rs 56 lakh more under various central schemes.

They were also paid adm­i­ssible service benefits such as death-cum-gratuity, group insurance, General Provident Fund, and liberalised pensionary awards under the CCS (Extra Ordinary Pension) Rules, 1939, a Union home ministry communication had then stated.

The Bengal government paid an additional Rs 5 lakh as ex gratia to the two families.

Bablu’s mother Bonomala Santra, 71, could not speak, repeatedly breaking down during the phone call. His wife Mita, 36, who staunchly believes that security lapses had killed the jawans, initially appeared reluctant to talk.

“Four years after the incident, this has little importance to me. My husband will never return,” Mita, who has received a compensatory central government job and takes care of her 10-year-old daughter and mother-in-law, said.

“Still, I want to know the truth, but will the truth ever come out?”

She added: “I still believe that a major security lapse had occurred. Troop movement had been suspended because of heavy snowfall; the order overruling it remains a mystery to me.”

The wife of another Pulwama victim, from another state, said she didn’t want to comment. “I’m not keen on saying anything about it. I haven’t gone deep into what was said (by Malik),” she said.

“Anyway, I don’t want to comment on this,” she added, asking not to be identified.

Additional reporting from our Delhi Bureau

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