Former UP CM Akhilesh Yadav’s statement on Wednesday that no soldier from Gujarat had ever got martyred drew flak from citizens and politicians alike. Mirror visited family members of martyred sons of Gujarat to take their account of what they felt about Akhilesh’s statement. Rajshree, widow of Mukesh Rathod who sacrificed his life during the 1999 Kargil war, commented: “Akhilesh’s statement was heart wrenching. We have been talking about it since we first heard it on television. Martyrs don’t belong to any state, they belong to the country. Losing them is not any state’s loss but nation’s loss.”

Incidentally, Rajshree was five months’ pregnant when she lost her husband. Today, her son Mrugesh is 17. With tears running down her face, Mukesh’s mother Samjuben Rathod said: “Only those who have lost their son, husband, brother or father can relate to our pain of losing Mukesh. My son was one among the 13 soldiers from Gujarat who lost their lives in the Kargil war. Our sorrow and sense of loss is beyond the comprehension of politician like Akhilesh.”

Jagdish Soni, 65-year-old brother of Captain Nilesh Soni — who lost his life along with 11 others while pushing back Pakistani soldiers on the Siachen Glacier in 1987— said: “It deeply saddens me to see that martyrs are now being segregated by states. In my opinion, Akhilesh Yadav does not know much about Gujarat and should not have made such a frivolous comment.” A monument, ‘Shaheed Capt. Nishesh Soni Smarak’, has been erected in the memory of Captain Nilesh Soni in Paldi by the state government. Martyr Major Rushikesh Ramani was killed while fighting terrorists during a search operation in Kupwara district near the Line of Control in Kashmir. His mother Geeta Ramani, 54, said, “I gave birth to Rushikesh and Bharatmaa (India) nurtured him. Mothers don’t differentiate between their sons on the basis of state, caste or religion. Akhileshji has made a political statement by saying that there have been no martyrs from Gujarat.

I can give him at least 10 names of those belonging to Gujarat who lost their lives for the country. We are in touch with most of the families who lost a son, brother, husband or father. Akhileshji should have checked the figures before making such statements.” Geetaben’s brother-in-law is in the Indian Air Force. Munim Singh, father of Lance Naik Gopal Singh Bhardoria who was martyred in a fierce gun-battle with terrorists in J&K this year, said: “Akhileshji has been voted out of UP and he has lost decorum and mental balance. He is trying to divide the country with frivolous statements.

A person who failed to be a son to his father can surely not be a son of the country. He has often been resorting to such divide and rule tactics in UP. He has divided Hindus and Muslims as well as Rajputs, Thakurs and Brahmins. Therefore he had been voted out of UP. The people of the country cannot forgive him. He spoke about Gujarat’s donkeys and now he has proved that he doesn’t even have the brain of a donkey.”

Ex-servicemen react to Yadav’s comment

Captain Alap Desai, who retired in 2007, said he was aware about lower representation of Gujarat when it came to Army service. “But, what Akhilesh said was a very crude way to look at the issue. Lower representation of Gujarat has more to do with the cultural mindset of people here who have faced lesser wartime atrocities compared to Punjab, J&K or Rajasthan. Yadav’s statement is not only wrong, but also crass.” Narendra Desai, who retired as an NCO (non-commissioned officer) from the Air Force in 1972, said: “This is foolishness on behalf of Akhilesh Yadav. A martyr is a martyr — whether he is from UP, Bihar or anywhere else. This is very petty and should not be tolerated, whether it comes from a former CM or a common man.”

Akhilesh, do you know?

1. In Kodiyavada village of Sabarkantha district near Vijaynagar, more than 1,200 persons out of a population of 6,500, are in the Armed Forces of India. Out of 700 houses here, more than one person from each home is serving in the Army.

2. Gujarat has 26,656 ex-servicemen as on March 31, 2017 and 3,517 widow of service men out of which 6,233 servicemen are from Ahmedabad. Thirty nine sons of Gujarat have been awarded one or the other bravery award for their service to the nation. Twenty have laid their lives fighting terrorism and 24 fighting on the nation’s borders.

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