The struggle of a soldier’s widow to get back a prestigious medal bestowed on her husband posthumously in 1946 has finally come to an end.
Brahmi Devi, now 83, had received the George Cross, the second highest British military honour for gallantry, on behalf of her husband, Naik Kirpa Ram, at the age of 14.
Much to her shock, the medal was mysteriously “stolen” from her house in 2002. She had lodged an FIR with the local police but the medal could not be traced — until it surfaced at an auction in London in 2009.
The British High Commission will on Monday present the medal to the widow at Bhapral, a remote village in Himachal Pradesh’s Bilaspur district.
State’s Chief Parliamentary Secretary Rajesh Dharmani Friday confirmed that the British Deputy High Commission has communicated to Brahmi Devi’s family that the medal will be returned to her on May 11. “I have invited Minister for Social and women empowerment Col (Rtd) Dhani Ram Shandil to attend the function. Officials of the British High Commission have already visited the village and met Brahmi Devi,” Dharmani told The Indian Express from Bilaspur.
The medal will be handed over to the widow by Brigadier Brian McCall, Defence Advisor at the British High Commission, New Delhi, at a small ceremony at Bhapral village, said a spokesperson of the British Deputy High Commission at Chandigarh. After it was “stolen”, the medal was put to auction in 2009 by one Ashok Nath, a retired Indian army officer, who had bought it from an Indian seller in Delhi.
S S Chandel, a retired IAS officer in Himachal Pradesh, had alerted the Himachal Pradesh government about the auction. The auction was stalled at the last moment following the intervention of the Ministry of External Affairs, Interpol and also the Himachal Pradesh High Court .
Later, a pre-trial settlement was reached with Nath agreeing to hand over the medal provided he was paid its price.
The London court asked the widow to deposit £12,000 (about Rs 10 lakh) to get the George Cross back. It also fixed a deadline of December 31, 2013, to deposit the money.
Surinder Thakur, a Shimla-based lawyer, got in touch with a few of his contacts in London, including one Vijay Sharma, an NRI, and mobilised support from some Indians to collect the amount.