Jabalpur: It was a moment that the family of Major Pramod Purushottam, who sacrificed his life while fighting terrorists virtually bare handed in Kashmir to save three journalists 14 years ago, was looking forward to.But it was not to be.
The Army recently decided to honour Maj Purushottam at the Srinagar-based 15 Corps but did not bother to call his wife Lt Col (retd) Valsa Purushottam or his daughter Pallavi in time for the event where his bust was to unveiled.
The Major’s 94-year-old father, K M Purushottam, who is bedridden for the last four years, stares at his picture
hanging on the wall, hardly able to hide his emotion.
Purushottam bitterly recalls how he had to virtually fight it out with the army authorities after his son was killed in 1999 for some honour to be given to him for his supreme valour.
The nonagenarian’s elder son Vinod chips in and pieces together the broken sentence of his father. “Daddy says it took them four years even to get a simple ‘Badge of Sacrifice’ from the Army authorities.”
“Even now, army rubs salts into our wounds. If they were so serious to ensure that the family should be at the function of unveiling the bust of my brother, all they could do was to be systematic and inform us well in advance,” says Vinod.
Vinod said that he had received a call from Lt Col N N Joshi on the evening of February 18 asking whether it was possible for them to attend the function at Srinagar on February 22. “How is it possible in such a short span of time?” he asked.
Valsa says she was not even called as a matter of courtesy. “My going or not going is not important but at least make an effort to reach to the family of the soldier who has upheld the name of the army by making such a supremesacrifice,” she said.
“I have nothing against the army as an institution. Ever since I have taken voluntary retirement, I have kept myself off of any engagements or the army,” she said.
When General-officer-Command of 15 corps Lt Gen Gurmeet Singh was asked to respond to the family’s concerns, he said, “We will hold another function for the family soon”.
Recalling her hardships, Valsa said it was ironical that the army could not facilitate taking his body to his hometown Jabalpur.
“But for the then Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Digvijay Singh, the body would have been delayed in Delhi. He gave his state plane to bring my husband’s body.”
“It pains and really pains to see the treatment meted out to my husband who like a true soldier of the army fought with terrorists and during his tenure as Public Relation Officer of the 15 Corps, won the hearts of people especially journalists in the Valley,” she said.
Maj Purushottam was in his office when Lashker-e-Taiba (LeT) militants had launched a fidayeen (suicide) attack onNovember 3, 1999. This is the only attack on local Army headquarters till date and came on a day when the then Corps Commander Lt Gen Kishen Pal was making claims of neutralising many of the militant modules in the Valley.
On the day of the suicide attack, three journalists–S Tariq, Fayaz Ahmed and Habib Naqash–were present with Pramod Purushottam discussing media matters in his office.
On hearing the sounds of firing by the terrorists and sensing trouble, Maj Purushottam, without caring for his personal safety, forced the journalists to take cover in the bathroom attached to his office along with one of the unit personnel. The terrorists, amidst indiscriminate firing, stormed their way into the PRO’s office.
“Late Maj Pramod Purushottam bravely fought terrorists and made supreme sacrifice of his life while saving the lives of those locked in his office complex,” the Army had said on February 22 when the bust was unveiled.
Valsa, who single handedly brought up the couple’s daughter, says modestly that she had no complaints. “It’s OK, it’s OK. His sacrifice has not been recognised by the army but there is God. He takes care of everything.”
Pallavi, who is studying abroad, does not wish to comment about the army but says, “I miss him (her father)”.
Back at his ancestral home, his two nephews — Abhinav and Siddarth — remember their uncle with pride while narrating the bravery of Maj Purushottam to their friends.
His mother Rathoi Purushottam is always seen clearing the dust of the trophies and medals won by her son, who belonged to Bihar regiment, during his career in army.
“For her, life may have moved on but the absence of Prem is felt in her eyes,” says Vinod.