Shakuntala Bhandarkar found it difficult to hold back her tears as she spoke about her husband, Lt Col Ajit Bhandarkar, who sacrificed his life for the nation.
Shakuntala Bhandarkar found it difficult to hold back her tears as she spoke about her husband, Lt Col Ajit Bhandarkar, who sacrificed his life for the nation in the Kargil war on October 31, 1999.
It has been 10 years since Ajit’s death, but for Shakuntala, the pain is as raw as yesterday’s. Things became even difficult as she had to wage a lone struggle to bring up her two sons, Akshay and Nirbhay, now studying in class 10 and class 12 respectively.
Lt Col Ajit Bhandarkar was shot dead by militants 10 years back during a search operation. He was posted at Faizlabad and was a part of the team of Operation Rakshak and operation Vijay.
Ironically, Ajit was killed on his 40th birthday.Recalling the trauma, Shakuntala said, “Ajit’s death created a vacuum in my life. It seems like a nightmare. I had spoken to him on October 30, 1999 and the very next day, I got the news of his death. Our children were too small at that time to understand what had happened. They hardly remember him. I keep telling them about their father even now.”
Shakuntala Bhandarkar was felicitated by Dr Mahesh Joshi, senior director, Doordarshan and Col (Ret) CM Uthaiah. This war widow, who moved to Bangalore from Delhi after Ajit’s death, is now working as a teacher in the Army Public School in the city.
Talking at the felicitation programme, Shakuntala said that the lives lost in Kargil war cannot be brought back. “We have paid a hefty price. Even if they give me lots of money, they cannot bring back my husband. They cannot bring back my life,” she said.
However even though the war has taken away one of the most precious person from her life, Shakuntala admits that being in the army is an honour and even she had wanted to join it, following Ajit’s death. However, she couldn’t fulfil her dream as she had crossed the age limit.
“Apart from the personal life and our professional work, every individual has a moral responsibility to society. We have to make this county, this world a peaceful place that is devoid of wars and violence,” she said. She thanked the army for its support to the bereaved family.
With Ajit, the family had travelled across the country — Pune, Indore, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu and Delhi. “After his retirement, we were planning to come back to Karnataka. So, now I am here,” said Shakuntala.
The undying passion to serve the nation seems to have been inherited by their sons. Elder son Nirbhay has already said that he aims to join the army. “I will never stop him,” said Shakuntala.
However, she feels that India should be prepared so that it is not caught on the backfoot by a Kargil-like situation in future. “In case of a war, the government blames the army and the army blames the intelligence and the blame-game just continues. But we should not let another Kargil war to happen,” she said.
Col MM Ravi (Retired), who was honoured with Veera Chakra, said that the government should not wait for people to approach them for help. As a matter of policy, they have to help those army families who have lost their beloved ones during a war.
The flags of honour Foundation
On the occasion of 10th anniversary of Kargil Vijay Divas and in an effort to serve and support the families of the martyrs of the military, paramilitary and the police forces of India, member of Parliament Rajeev Chandrasekhar launched the Flags of Honour foundation.
The council of advisors of Flags of Honour comprises air chief marshal FH Major (retd), Lt Gen Satish Nambiar (retd), air chief marshal Mc Mahon (Retd), air commodore MK Chandrasekhar (retd), commodore Franklin (retd), Subhashini Vasanth, Manvendra Singh, ex member of Parliament, Sajjan Poovayya , chairman of FICCI (Karnataka State Council), Lt Col Mohanlal and Rajeev Chandrasekhar, member of Parliament.
The loss of a lifetime
On Saturday, the Flags of Honour foundation in the city honoured the family of Jo Janthomas, a commanding officer of Rastriya Rifles in Indian Defence Service, who was shot dead by a terrorist group in Kupwara in 2008.
His wife Beena, daughter Meghana and his son Thilemom, were also given a sum of Rs5 lakh.
“I don’t know what is there in the minds of those terrorists. What I know is the fact that I lost my dad because of them and that we are still not able to cope with the tragedy. With time, the intensity of the pain may reduce, but it’s an irreparable loss for our family,” said 19-year-old Meghana
His wife Beena, who started teaching at Army Public School after Janthomas’s death, said that terrorism is ruining India. “Many children have lost their fathers, many parents have lost their sons and many women have been widowed. Do we need such distortions?” asked Beena.