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Bihar minister’s army statement sparks outrage

All four dead soldiers were cremated with full state honours amid chants of anti-Pakistan slogans

Gulf News

Patna: A senior minister in the ruling Janata Dal (United) government in Bihar headed by chief minister Nitish Kumar kicked up a controversy on Thursday when he said “soldiers are meant to be killed”, inviting all-round condemnations.

Rural works minister Dr Bhim Singh made the controversial statement to the media on Thursday when asked why no ministers from his government reached the Patna airport to receive bodies of the four dead soldiers who were killed in alleged ambush by the Pakistan troops on Tuesday.

Of the five soldiers killed in alleged ambush along the Line of Control in Indian-administered Kashmir, four belonged to Bihar.

“The soldiers are meant to be killed. Why else do people join army and police? Those who join the army are conditioned to believe that they could become martyrs,” the minister told a TV news channel when being asked why his cabinet colleagues avoided paying last respects to the dead soldiers.

Justifying further his actions, he shot a counter-question to the reporter asking, “Did your father and mother go (to receive soldiers’ bodies)”. Later, however, he apologised for his remark but blamed the media for the controversy.

The statement received wide condemnation from all quarters as the opposition parties were quick to demand his dismissal from the cabinet while accusing the latter of showing disrespect towards the martyrs.

“Only a mentally sick person can make such statement. He must be immediately sacked from the cabinet,” Rashtryia Janata Dal’s Rajya Sabha member Ram Kripal Yadav said.

Another opposition leader and former health minister in the erstwhile NDA government Ashwini Kumar Choube also hit out at the minister and sought his immediate dismissal from the government to set things right.

“This is shameless, highly condemnable. He (minister) must be immediately sacked,” Choube told the media while accusing the ruling party of insulting the dead soldiers.

“Let aside the ministers, even the chief minister Nitish Kumar did not find time to pay respect to the soldiers although he was in the national capital when the bodies of the soldiers arrived at the Delhi airport to be flown to Patna. This is a totally irresponsible act for which the people will teach them a lesson,” said Choube adding, “Perhaps, they (soldiers) were not part of their vote-bank”.

In the meantime, all the four soldiers from 21 Bihar regiment were cremated with full state honours at their respective villages yesterday amid chants of anti-Pakistan slogans.

Of the four Bihar soldiers killed, two belonged to Saran district, while the remaining two hailed from Patna and Bhojpur districts respectively.

Shouts of “Pakistan down, down” and “Live long our martyrs” rent the air as the bodies of the soldiers were brought for cremation, leaving the atmosphere charged. Thousands of villagers joined the funeral procession of the soldiers to pay last respect to them.

People turned emotional when two-year-old son Piyush carried in the lap of his kin lit the funeral pyre of his father Shambhu Sharan Singh at Ara (Bhojpur) and two-and-a-half-year-old son Parateek lit the funeral pyre of his martyred soldier father Prem Nath Singh in Saran.

The people became even more sentimental when six-year-old son of soldier Vijay Kumar Rai consoled his wailing mother, promising to join army to avenge killing of his father who was cremated at his village in Patna.

The remains of another soldier Raghunandan Prasad were consigned to flames on the bank of Saryu river in Saran district. His uncle lit the pyre of the 23-year-old unmarried soldier.