Bravery award winner to return prize money

May 4th, 2008 - 3:08 pm ICT by admin  

By Kulsum Mustafa
Varanasi, May 4 (IANS) Manjuma Iqbal, winner of the President’s Uttam Jeevan Raksha medal 2008, is set to return the award money given to her for the brave act of saving four children from drowning in the river Varuna. Although she rescued four children, she could not save her own son Shahid. The incident took place May 27, 2004.

Manjuma and her family consider the award money without any medal, citation or felicitation ceremony more of an “insult than an honour”.

“Nearly four years after I lost my son, when I learnt that I would get this award, I felt a little consoled. It was like a pat from the parents’ whose children I could save. But the shabby treatment took away that joy,” Manjuma, 33, told IANS.

According to her, she was summoned to the district magistrate’s office during the normal public meeting time, ushered in and handed over the demand draft of Rs.45,000.

“I could not really believe my eyes. It was such a shoddy way of applauding the brave deed of a woman who had to sacrifice her own son but managed to save four other kids from drowning,” says her husband Iqbal.

Since the day the award was given on Feb 24, they have been running from pillar to post to register their protest.

“I have even petitioned the president twice. Archana Dutta, OSD (officer on special duty) to the president, had asked for the papers which we sent to her in March. But there has been no response since then.”

Manjuma continues to shudder every time she recalls that hot May afternoon when nine-year-old Shahid’s friends called her.

“Aunty please come out, Shahid is drowning,” is all she heard. Next she saw her son and six other boys being washed away into river Varuna.

The hand pulled rickshaw they had been sitting on was sucked in by the powerful current.

With no time to think or call for help, Manjuma rushed to their rescue. In what seemed like an exhaustive search, she managed to save four of the children. Shahid, her son, was not among them.

With tears rolling down her face, Manjuma says: “Memories of my son still haunt me. I often sit up in the night and cry. I have so many times said sorry to him for failing to save him….” Her voice breaks off.

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