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After Akhilesh's visit, martyr Hemraj's family ends fast

By Tohid Ahmed Qureshi
Last updated on: January 14, 2013 19:30 IST
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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 Bharatiya Janata Party 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.

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

"The family has 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."

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 Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Nitin Gadkari, Sushma Swaraj and Rajnath Singh visited them and offered support.

Swaraj accused the central government of "callousness" in its treatment of the family. "The defence minister should have come or at least the MoS defence and Mos PMO or a top official of the central command should have come," she said.

She demanded tough action against Pakistan in the wake of the barbaric killing of the soldiers.

In New Delhi, the army chief said the issue of retrieving Hemraj's head from Pakistan will be taken up strongly at diplomatic level as also military level.

Singh said he would also visit Hemraj's home after January 15 Army Day function. "We have to make the Pakistan army accountable. There are diplomatic, political ways of doing it...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.

The 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. They had mutilated the soldiers bodies' and beheaded Hemraj.       

Akhilesh said the Uttar Pradesh government has given them Rs 20 lakh and another Rs 5 lakh from the Kisan fund. "We know that money cannot make up for the family's loss but it is important that the sacrifice of martyrs are recognised.

After meeting the family, Gadkari demanded that India should take steps to "isolate" Pakistan on the issue and said New Delhi should raise the issue in the United Nations and other international forums.

"I expect the Government of India to take this up in the United Nations. We should raise the issue in international platforms to isolate Pakistan...The Prime Minister should not keep quiet," he told the media.


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