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Dead sepoy’s village doesn’t know his killer is killed in Pakistan

In about a month’s time,after the elections are over in Maharashtra,a memorial to Sepoy Bhausaheb Talekar of the 17 Maratha...

In about a month’s time,after the elections are over in Maharashtra,a memorial to Sepoy Bhausaheb Talekar of the 17 Maratha Light Infantry will be inaugurated at his parents’ village in Kolgaon,in the Srigonda taluka of Ahmednagar district.

Talekar was killed brutally on the Line of Control by HuJI commander Ilyas Kashmiri,who is said to have presented the Indian soldier’s head to General Pervez Musharraf and received a reward of Rs 1 lakh for it. Kashmiri — who according to some reports was also a Pakistan Special Services Group commando — was killed in an American drone attack earlier this month.

Despite being home to around 400 serving and nearly 350 retired Army personnel,not many in Kolgaon know of Kashmiri’s death. Everyone remembers the day Talekar’s body was brought here,though.

“He was covered in the Indian flag. We were told his face was mutilated,some limbs were missing,that the body was not in a condition to be unveiled,” says Meena,Talekar’s sister.

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Meena had wanted to see her brother’s face once before he was cremated. The Army declined,and the Talekars accepted the decision unquestioningly. Villagers say the family did not know the 24-year-old had been beheaded.

To some in Kolgaon,Kashmiri’s death makes up — to a very small extent — for the terrible death of Talekar. “It is some sort of revenge,” says Sarpanch Hemantrao Nalgi. “We had read reports about Musharraf rewarding a terrorist for an Indian soldier’s death. We did not know it was for Bhausaheb.”

Told of Kashmiri’s death,Sitabai,Talekar’s mother,merely says,“After nine years…”,her voice trailing off.

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In Meena’s voice there is anger: “Each time we hear of terrorism,or Pakistan,we are filled with anger.”

Following Talekar’s death,his family received nearly Rs 12 lakh as compensation over several years. A pension of Rs 10,000 comes in every month,and Sitabai and her husband were able to stop working as daily-wage labourers soon after their son’s death.

The Army took care of Meena’s education; she now has a post-graduate degree. Some of the compensation money was spent on her wedding. The village has replaced the thatched hut of Talekar’s growing-up years with a proper house for the family.

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Talekar studied till Class 10. The six acres of rain-fed land the family owned was yielding little at that time. Sitabai would get 50 paise for a full day’s labour — an income that later rose to Rs 6,then Rs 10,per day.

“I told him not to join the Army,but he said there was no option. No other job was available. It is like that for many people here. Later,he would tell me,‘people die in accidents,of other reasons,at least in the Army there is some glory’,” says Sitabai.

“He was our only son.”

Meena says her brother’s death led to an improvement in the family’s economic situation,but it was a change they would have rather done without. “We got all that money,but at what price? It will not bring back my brother.”

The family is now looking forward to the upcoming memorial. “We also hope to build a school for special children in my brother’s name. Bhausaheb was very keen that people with special needs have a separate school so that they get equal opportunities in life,” says Meena.

Soon after Kargil war,the local MP gave Rs 5 lakh to build a cultural centre in the name of Kolgaon’s two martyrs,Talekar and Sepoy Sachin Sake of the Rashtriya Rifles (who won the Sena medal). The villagers put together the rest of the money,and the centre was recently completed. The village now uses the Rs 12 lakh building for social events like weddings.

First published on: 23-09-2009 at 03:43:00 am
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