Akhilesh Yadav, top BJP leaders visit soldier's house; family calls off fast

Last Updated: Mon, Jan 14, 2013 14:53 hrs

Khairair: The family of beheaded soldier Hemraj on Monday called off their six-day-old fast after a visit by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and top BJP leaders and assurances by Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh that steps will be taken to get back the severed head.

The end of the protest came in the evening when Akhilesh met the family and offered juice to Hemraj's fasting wife Dharamwati, mother Meena Devi and cousin Narendra, offering all help to the family as well as for the development of the village.

Minister of State for Defence Jitendra Singh visited the family of the martyred soldier and announced that the government would give Rs 46 lakh to the family. "We are also talking to other ministries so that the family get a petrol pump," he said

The day began with the family refusing to take "even liquid", demanding that the Army chief meet them personally and give an assurance that Hemraj's head severed by Pakistani troops last week be brought back or else they will continue the fast.

However, the family decided to end the fast after a string of leaders, including Akhilesh, Jitendra Singh and top BJP leaders Nitin Gadkari, Sushma Swaraj and Rajnath Singh visited them and offered support.

Akhilesh met the family on Monday and assured them that government will take all measures to help them.

Reaching the village, Shernagar 160 km from Delhi and 50 km from Mathura, Akhilesh spoke to the family members.

Akhilesh promised to take steps to meet the family's demands, including development of the road for the village and take up with the Centre the allotment of a petrol pump for them.

"The family have shown the strength to face this (tragedy). We have to stand by them. We should all support the family of Lance Naik Hemraj. We have assured that whatever demands they have made for village."

Pakistan Army regulars had infiltrated inside Indian territory in Poonch sector of Jammu and Kashmir and killed Lance Naiks Sudhakar Singh and Hemraj on January eight.

The Chief Minister's visit came on the sixth day of the fast of Hemraj's family demanding that his severed head be brought back.

"We must stand beside them. We are with the family. We will help them in every possible way. We have given them Rs 20 lakh from the government fund and another Rs 5 lakh from the Kisan fund," he said.

Akhilesh said they know that money cannot make up for the family's loss but it is important that the sacrifice of martyrs is recognised.

Hemraj's wife Dharamvati, mother Meena and cousin Narendra had taken nothing but intravenous fluid as their condition deteriorated. Doctors are keeping a close watch and examining them at regular intervals.

Pak should be pressurized to return Hemraj's head: Gen Singh

Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh on Saturday said the Pakistan Army should be pressurised to return the head of Lance Naik Hemraj who was beheaded by its troops in Poonch sector in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Army Chief said he would also visit the home of Hemraj whose family has been on a fast for the last six days demanding that his head be brought back from Pakistan.

"We have to make the Pakistan Army accountable. There are diplomatic, political ways of doing it. As far as the Army is concerned, increasing force and violence is a national decision. We want the head back but what do you when a country and its Army are in denial mode?

"I think we should pressurise them nationally and internationally as part of our national element so that they are made accountable and they are made to return the head of our soldier which they have taken away," he said in his annual Army day press conference here.

Gen Singh said that for getting the head back, "it will be taken up at the government level and you will have to appreciate that this has to to be done through diplomatic channels.

"It will also be conveyed to the DGMO. It is also being conveyed today in no uncertain terms. Let us see if Pakistan Army heeds to our protest rpt protest and complies to it," he said.

Hemraj's family wants Army Chief to visit them

Hemraj's mother Meena Devi, and wife Dharamwati Devi earlier said they would not be convinced that the jawan was dead unless they saw his head.

General Singh on Monday assured that Hemraj's family of all possible help.

"I want to convey condolences to the families...We will make sure they are given all possible help. We will give them all that is due, and everything they are entitled to," he told media.

Hemraj's family earlier said they would end the fast if General Singh visits them and assured them of bring back the martyred soldier's severed head.

Dr Harshwardhan, Medical Officer of Chatha Public Health Centre, said, "The family is refusing even to take any liquids. But we are maintaining there vital parameters. Dharamvati is being given IV fluid."

"We are not going to call off our fast if a leader comes here and request us to do so. We want the Army chief to come here and assure us that he will get Hemraj's head back from Pakistan. Only then we will call off our fast," Narendra, who is on fast, said.

The family's demands came as the Army Chief addressed a press conference in New Delhi and said the beheading of two Indian soldiers in Pak Army attack was unacceptable.

He said the Army understands the grief of the families of the brave soldiers who laid down their lives as they are "our families too" and they will make all attempts to ease the pain and suffering of Lance Naik Hemraj's family.

Villagers, who sat at the choupal in solidarity with the family, and relatives said Hemraj was very keen that his children -- Nirmala (7), Prince (5) and Kallu (3) -- get education and three months ago had shifted to a house in Chatha, which is a little far away, because it had a school.

"He had made a house in Chatha because it had a school. His first two children are already in school and for them, he decided to get a house there," Draupal Singh, uncle of Hemraj's wife, said.

Hemraj was recruited in the Army in 2001 and he got married to Dharamvati three years later. According to relatives, he had booked tickets to come to his village on February 7th.

BJP leaders meet martyr's family

India must isolate Pakistan, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Nitin Gadkari said on Monday after visiting the home of Lance Naik Hemraj.

Senior BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Rajnath Singh were also part of the delegation that met the family of the martyr in Shernagar village in Mathura district, about 350 km from the state capital Lucknow.

"The Pakistani government is provoking people with what they are doing," Gadkari told reporters, demanding an apology. "The government should isolate Pakistan as the incident has disturbed not just the family of the slain martyrs but also every Indian," he added.

Hemraj Singh and Lance Naik Sudhakar Singh of Rajputana Rifles were killed by Pakistan's army Jan 8, and their bodies were mutilated.

"Such inhuman treatment and such violence is a blot for the whole world," Gadkari said.

"Both the mother and wife of the martyr are pained that he was not given the respect he deserved. It is true no one from state or central government came for the funeral," party leader Rajnath Singh added.

Cousin questions motives of politicians following their visit

But it did little to console the family. The soldier's cousin Narender questioned the visit of politicians at the house days after the incident alleging that they were trying to capitalise on the issue.

"Politicians are visiting us for their own interests. If they wanted to pay respect, they should have come on the day when he was cremated. Even they could have visited us two days later but what is the point in coming now on the sixth day," Narender said.

Kalyan Singh, Hemraj's paternal uncle, claimed that the family did not demand that the Army Chief visit them to end the fast. "The wife and mother are in grief and they are unable to have any food," he said.

After meeting the family, Gadkari said the incident has left a bad precedent for the whole country. "Whatever the Pakistani troops have done should be condemned at the international level," he said.

At the village, a large number of police personnel were deployed and almost the whole village had assembled near the house.

Hunger strike by family 'petty': UP minister

Uttar Pradesh minister for sports and youth welfare Ramkaran Arya on Sunday said the hunger strike by martyr soldier Hemraj's mother and wife will not solve the issue and it would be a "petty thing" to do so on the matter.

Arya told reporters here, "Hunger strike is not a solution. We do strike on problems. Being on strike will be a petty thing on this issue."

The condition of Hemraj's mother Meena Devi and wife Dharamvati, who are on a fast demanding the head of the decapitated jawan, has deteriorated.

According to villagers, they are on fast demanding head of the slain 13 Rajputana Rifles soldier, who was decapitated by Pakistani troops near the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch sector of Jammu and Kashmir on January 8.

The absence of top state government official during the funeral of Hemraj was conspicuous enough to invite criticism.

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