APunjab and Haryana High Court judgment on the failure of successive governments to honour a hero of the freedom movement has made it clear that time has come to ask what your country can do for you. The order, questioning the treatment of martyr Bakshish Singh’s sacrifice by the state, came after the court was told that the claim of the revolutionary’s family for the return of 33 acres confiscated by the British in 1916 was declined in 1988 by offering a meagre compensation of Rs 13,000.
Though the compensation after the court order stands enhanced to Rs 25 lakh per acre, in sync with the land’s market value, the fact remains that over 70 years of Independence have failed to liberate the country from the shackles of a colonial mindset that refuses to act rationally and believes in legal hairsplitting while compensating a martyr’s kin. The market value, in lieu of land confiscated, was paid by the authorities concerned in at least two cases of other freedom fighters, while Bakshish Singh’s legal heirs were given short shrift.
The government needs to turn selfless towards the sacrifices made in the past for the present, especially after being rapped repeatedly by the courts. In a similar case, the High Court asserted that a freedom fighter must be tossing in discomfort, wherever he is, apparently thinking that the nation had forgotten his sacrifice. The government of independent India has, undoubtedly and rightly, been focusing on projecting the laurels of the nation’s heroes. It gave the country a war memorial. The Bench, in its order, noted that Rs 150 crore were spent on erecting the memorial. The powers that be now need to travel beyond history books and go back in time for effectively bringing to the present the reality of sacrifices made by the heroes, who gave up their life for something bigger than their own self, and salute them by giving their kin their due. The nation, while expressing gratitude, must always remember that the utmost appreciation is not in uttering words, but living by them, as John F Kennedy said.