Video Editor: Vishal Kumar
On 14 February 2019, a suicide bomber attacked a convoy of CRPF personnel in Kashmir's Pulwama, sending shockwaves through the country. As many as 40 lives were lost and families were shattered. It has been one year since.
TV channels, newspapers and the internet were flooded with photos and videos of the families of these soldiers. For a change, their lives beyond the line of duty came to the forefront.
A year since, memories of those 40 jawans may have faded from the minds of the people and that of the media, but their loved ones continue to feel the void. Their struggle continues. The Quint delves deeper into how lives of the martyrs’ families have shaped in a year.
The 40 Martyrs of Pulwama Attack
Constable Koushal Kumar Rawat - 115 Battalion
Koushal Rawat was an ASI in CRPF, he had joined the forces in 1990. He had recently joined his battalion in Jammu after getting transferred from Darjeeling. Rawat is survived by two sons, a daughter, his wife and mother. He was the sole bread earner of the family who continues to depend on his pension.
The family recalls how Koushal Rawat would spend his one-month leave.
His family claims that the only help they got was from CRPF and the government did not extend any support.
“Only we know how we are surviving with just pension. His kids are studying and we are in trouble. The government did not help us. They made huge promises but did not fulfil any.”Sudha Rawat, Martyr’s Mother
Constable Rawat’s mother had not met her son or spoken to him in months. She hopes that no mother in India has to go through what she is.
‘Memories Keep Coming Back’
One of Rawat’s sons is pursuing MBBS in Russia and his daughter works for a private company in Delhi. His other son Abhishek Rawat, who is completing his graduation, has been promised a government job. Abhishek says:
“He was more of a friend to me than a father. We would talk like friends and share everything with him. We would have a lot of fun when he would come on leave. We would cook together and not let mom cook. Those memories keep coming back.”Abhishek Rawat, Martyr’s Son
‘Government Has Extended No Help’
“We got Rs 25 lakh ex-gratia on that very day but the government has given us nothing. There are so many government policies for martyrs like allotment of land, an effigy, a martyr’s gate is to be built a government school’s name and the village’s name changes... But not a single ‘shaheed’ policy has been implemented,” said the family.
Head Constable Sanjay Kumar Sinha - 176 Battalion
Sanjay Sinha had left home to join duty on 8 February 2019 after his one-month leave. He had promised his family that he would return after 15 days but never did.
He is survived by two daughters, a son, his wife and elderly parents. The family entirely depends on his pension.
“Our daughter is still not married. He was talking about her marriage. He spoke of a boy and said he would discuss it later because the network was patchy then. How will he now get her married? He has not comeback. We had to get our daughter married.”Shakuntala Devi, Martyr’s Wife
'How to Survive With a Meagre Pension of Rs 400?’
Sanjay Kumar Sinha’s father Mahendra Prasad Singh is concerned about his granddaughter who wants to be independent in her life. He asks the government to pay heed to his family’s requirement. “We, his parents, are old and get a meagre pension of Rs 400. What can happen with such little money? How will our family survive? Shouldn't the government pay heed to our family situation?” asks Mahendra Prasad Singh
‘Those Who Suffer Will Understand How the Year Has Been’
Shakuntala Devi says that her husband was posted out for the last three years and this would have been his 4th consecutive year, which is against the rules. She is scared now and does not want her daughter to join the police, but instead wants a bank or a railway job for her.
“It is going to be a year and people come to ask how have we survived this one year. Only those who suffer will understand how the year has been.”Shakuntala Devi, Martyr’s Wife
Constable Ajit Kumar Azad - 115 Battalion
Ajit had left home on 10 February 2019 to join duty after one month of leave. He was the eldest among five brothers and an inspiration for them. Two of his brothers too joined defence forces after him. Ajit Kumar is survived by his wife, two daughters and elderly parents.
“Whatever we are today, we are because of him. He guided us brothers so well. He could have achieved anything in life but he chose to join the forces. He inspired two of his brothers to join the security force too. One is in the Army, the other in the police.Ranjit Kumar, Ajit’s Younger Brother
‘No Road, Schools, Home or Land, Just False Promises’
Azad’s wife Meena was given a government job after his demise but the family is struggling because the government hasn't fulfilled any of its promises. “We have lost our home. My children are orphans now. If soldiers keep being martyred like this, soon all families will be orphaned. We want strict action to be taken against terrorism so that such incidents aren’t repeated.”, she adds.
“Empty promises were made to. Officials would come home and make big promises to but nothing has been done. It’s fleeting and then everybody forgets. The government had promised us land, a house but it hasn’t been done. No roads or schools have been renamed after him.”Meena Goutam, Martyr’s Wife
India responded to the Pulwama attack with the Balakot strikes, but for the kin of the 40 CRPF jawans, the void of their loved ones remains. According to the official list of the martyrs, the most number of casualties was from Uttar Pradesh – at 12. Of the martyred CRPF personnel, four hailed from Punjab and five from Rajasthan.