Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Are gallant veterans respected in India?

Monday, August 1, 2011- Sir, may I have the privilege of shaking hand with the Victoria Cross
The excerpt below is a passage from the pages 110 & 111 of the book `Toward Resurgent India' written by Lt. Gen. (Retd.) M. M. Lakhera, PVSM,AVSM,VSM, one time Lt.Gov. of Pondicherry and now the Governor of Mizoram.
"I had gone to UK in 1995 as Deputy Leader of the Indian Delegatio n to take part in the 50th Anniversa ry celebrati ons of the victory in Europe during the Second World War. I along with four other Army officers, had just stepped out after attending the inaugural session and were waiting on the roadside for the traffic to ease so as to walk across the road to the vehicle park. Among those with me was Honorary Captain Umrao Singh, a Victorian Cross winner (unfortuna tely, I have received the sad news of his expiry just two days back). All of a sudden a car moving on the road came to a halt in front of us and a well dressed gentleman stepped out. He approache d Umrao Singh and said, "Sir, may I have the privilege of shaking hand with the Victoria Cross (winner)?" He shook hands with him. Evidently he had spotted Umrao Singh's medal from his car and had stopped his car to pay his respect to a winner of the highest gallantry medal of his country. Then he looked at me and said, "General, you are from Indian Army." When I replied in affirmati ve, he gave out his name, saying that he was Maichile Hailstine . I was absolutel y astounded as the recogniti on dawned on me that he was the Deputy Prime Minister of UK I was totally overawed by such courtesy shown by a dignitary of the second highest status in the British Governmen t and humbly thanked him for having invited our delegatio n for the VE Day function. Again his reply was typical of his sagacity, "General, it is we the British, who should be grateful to your country and your Armed Forces, who had helped us win both the first and the second World wars. How can we be ever so ungratefu l to forget your country's great contribut ion?" Suddenly I became conscious that all the traffic behind his car had come to stand still. I hurried to thank him and politely requested him to move along to relieve the traffic hold-up. He stated, "Sir, how dare I drive off when Victoria Cross has to cross the road." Realizing his genuine feeling I and my colleague s quickly crossed the road. Reaching the other side I looked back and saw that Mr. Hailstine was still standing waiting for the Victoria Cross to be safely across.” That is the type of regard they have for their decorated soldiers. I wish that similar respect could be shown to the bravehearts & gallantry award winners by the leaders and prominent figures in our country.
Sir, may I have the privilege of shaking hand with the Victoria Cross (winner)
Related Reading: India Demystified
Dangers of al-Faeda by Gopalkrishna Gandhi
July 29, 2011

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