Army Chief Visits Slain Jawan’s Home, Denies Pak Charges

SHERNAGAR (TIP): ARMY Chief General Bikram Singh January 16 met the family of slain Lance Naik Hemraj Singh at his native village here, and said that it was “incorrect” to say that Indian troops had violated the ceasefire on the Line of Control. Speaking to reporters after meeting Hemraj’s wife Dharamvati and mother Meena, Singh said the death of a Pakistani soldier, which Pakistan alleged was in an “unprovoked attack”, possibly took place in “retaliatory fire”. It was this death that triggered the recent round of border tension in Jammu and Kashmir. General Singh arrived at Shernagar village in a chopper and stayed for half an hour with the family. “It is incorrect to say that Indian troops violated the ceasefire across the Line of Control.

However, when there is fire from across the border, our men retaliate. There is crossfiring on occasion, and it is unfortunate if this caused the death of the soldier,” he said. Singh refused to respond to Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar’s statement calling his earlier comments provocative. “I have not read the statement and do not wish to comment on it at this time.

I came here to express solidarity with the family of the martyred jawan. Keeping in mind the responsibilities that I hold, it is not possible to visit the homes of all the 10,800 war widows in this country. However, it was my bounden duty to come here after I was told that Hemraj’s wife and mother were on a hunger strike and wanted me to meet them. They are part of the extended Army family, and all the support that I can give will be provided to them. I have given them that assurance,” Singh said. The two were on hunger strike to demand the return of Hemraj’s head, which was cut off and carried away by Pakistani troops.

Hemraj belonged to 13 Raj Rif battalion. The Army Chief ’s wife Surjeet Kaur was also with him. “I feel for the family of the victim and have come to express my sorrow at this act,” Kaur said. Asked what India’s response should be, she said: “Eent ka jawaab pathar se dena itna aasan nahin hota (An eye for an eye is not as simple as it sounds).” Singh arrived at the village under heavy security. Accompanied by other senior Army officers, he paid homage at a little memorial created for Hemraj.

Apart from speaking to Hemraj’s family, including his fiveyear- old son, he also met the gram pradhan. Hemraj’s wife Dharamvati said: “He told us that our desire to see a member of our family in the Army, and for our children to go to school, would be taken care of. He told us that the Army was with us in our grief.” Seeking justice, an emotional Meena, Hemraj’s mother, added: “Even after this incident, I want to see my grandson in the Army.” Several villagers also asked Singh to speed up development in the village, and the Army Chief promised to take up the matter at “at the appropriate level at the appropriate time”.

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