Colonel Vasanth Venugopal, Commanding Officer of the 9th Maratha Light Infantry, died during an encounter with militants on July 31, 2007. He is the first recipient of the Ashok Chakra from Karnataka, India’s highest gallantry award for exemplary bravery during peace time.
On the eve of the inauguration of Colonel Vasanth Venugopal Enclave, a residential complex for army officers, his wife Subhashini spoke to Bangalore Mirror about how symbolic gestures like that do not really help the families that these brave soldiers leave behind.
BM: It has been three years since Col Vasanth was killed in Jammu. Has the pain dimmed?
SV: It has been three and a half years actually. But even today, when I think of the day on which I got the news… the pain is still sharp. But life takes you along and you go with the flow.
BM: The army is naming an enclave after Col Vasanth. What are your sentiments?
SV: It is matter of great pride of course and the army has been very gracious with Vasanth’s memory. Sometimes, I wonder what was it about Vasanth that gave his sacrifice the kind of recognition it did.
BM: There are a lot of unrecognised soldiers who have also died..
SV: Exactly. Symbolic gestures mean little when you don’t take care for a martyr’s family. The families of armed force personnel always get a raw deal. When a soldier lays down his life, his family loses not only a loved one but also the bread winner.
BM: So the gesture of naming buildings and circles…
SV: This certainly keeps the memory alive, but when his family is struggling to make ends meet, it means little.
BM: The recent revelations of the Adarsh Housing scam and another that has been unearthed in Bangalore as well, tell us a telling tale about martyrs. What are your thoughts?
SV: That is precisely what I am saying. Even if you don’t give them a little extra, at least, don’t cheat them out of their dues. They have to live with the loss of a loved one daily and also deal with everyday practical difficulties because they did not get what was rightfully theirs.
BM: Vasanth is the first recipient of the Ashok Chakra from the State. How has the state government helped you?
SV: The army has been very helpful to our family and has done a lot to honour Vasanth. But I didn’t even get a letter from the state government acknowledging the Ashok Chakra awarded to him. Forget the symbolic gesture of naming something after Vasanth, they have not even acknowledged his sacrifice.
-via Bangalore Mirror