George Cross winner’s widow fights another battle (Lead)December 2nd, 2009 - 6:13 pm ICT by IANS
By Vishal Gulati
Shimla, Dec 2 (IANS) She is now fighting a different battle, a battle to get the George Cross medal awarded to her husband posthumously back to India.
Brahmi Devi, 77, the widow of a pre-independence Indian soldier, is happy with the announcement that the auction of the gallantry medal in London has been put off.
Her husband Naik Kirpa Ram was awarded the medal for sacrificing his life to save his army comrades from harm while disposing of a misfired rifle grenade at a camp in Bangalore Sep 12, 1945. She received the medal from the Viceroy of India, Field Marshal Lord Wavell, in 1946.
“I have won half the battle (to get the auction of the medal stalled). But the battle is still on. My soul will not rest till I get the medal back,” Brahmi Devi told IANS here Wednesday.
She was here to meet the chief minister and police officials regarding the auction of the medal by Dix Noonan Webb, leading specialist auctioneers and valuers of coins and medals in London.
“It’s totally a baseless allegation that I have sold the medal to somebody. Do you think that any Indian woman could part with the medal that is the last remembrance of her husband? At least, this is not possible for a woman who lives in a small village and still believes in orthodox views,” said an emotionally charged Brahmi Devi, who was widowed when she was just 13.
“You see I had kept the medal for 56 years as a memorabilia. In all these years, whenever I used to travel out of my village I used to bury it deep in the ground.”
“The loss of the medal is as bad as the loss of my husband. My husband will not pardon me if I sell off the medal. Is this the way society treats their heroes who sacrificed their lives for others?”
“I don’t know anybody by the name Kirpal Singh (who claims to have an affidavit which says that the medal was gifted to him by Brahmi Devi). I have never met him. I have never gifted nor sold the medal. I only know that the medal was stolen from my house,” she said.
The medal was allegedly stolen from Brahmi Devi’s house in a small village in Bilaspur district in 2002. She had reported the theft of the medal Feb 3, 2002. However, the police had closed the case after a few years as the medal could not be traced.
Regarding the sympathies expressed by the Britain-based current owner of the medal, Ashok Nath, for Brahmi Devi, she said: “I think he will certainly return my last remembrance.”
Nath wrote to the Himachal Pradesh Police Tuesday that he had withdrawn the medal from the auction on his own. Favouring a thorough probe into the medal controversy, Nath wrote that he had acquired the medal in good faith nine years ago from S.L. Jain, who was a reputed coin and medal dealer, after being shown two affidavits along with a video which convinced him that the medals had been acquired in a proper manner.
He sympathised with Brahmi Devi by saying that “he would be the first person to return the medal to her if it was found that it was stolen. Being a victim of circumstances Brahmi Devi would still have his sympathy even if she had indeed given the medal to Kirpal Singh.”
Brahmi Devi’s voice choked when she said: “Now I am pinning my hopes that Nath would return my medal. If this happens, my soul will rest in peace.”
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at email@example.com)
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Tags: affidavit, allegation, auctioneers and valuers, brahmi, chief minister, comrades, cross winner, dix noonan webb, field marshal, gallantry, george cross, gulati, half the battle, indian soldier, indian woman, police officials, rifle grenade, specialist auctioneers, viceroy of india, wavell