The Money I Got As Compensation Made My Neighbours Jealous
This year marked the 13 anniversary of Operation Vijay and the last week of July is deeply etched in Rekha Bhandari’s memory. She vividly remembers how people from the Army had come to inform her about the death of her husband Mangat Singh Bhandari, a Naik in the Garhwal Rifles. Her husband, a resident of Kirmolia village in the Pauri-Garhwal district of Uttaranchal, was killed in Operation Vijay in 1999.
Rekha was just 18 when she got married. However, by the time she turned 26, she was already a mother of three and a widow. At that time she was eight months pregnant with Monica, her third daughter. The Army could not bring her husband’s body to his village in the absence of a motorable road. So the cremation took place at Daugadda, a village nearby.
The last time she was with her husband was in December 1998 when he had come home. “At that time there was no phone at our house. He used to write letters to me,” says Rekha, remembering how Mangat’s letter reached his family after his death. “But my mother-in-law did not show those letters to me thinking it will remind me of my husband’s death.”
For a few years after her husband’s death Rekha stayed in her village. She shifted to Delhi in 2006 when she was allotted an apartment in Vijay Veer Awaas which is a cluster of apartments in Dwarka’s Sector 18 dedicated to the families of Kargil War heroes by the Delhi Development Authority.
“People say time passes very quickly, but for me it was not easy to manage my family alone and it reminded me of my husband’s absence every day,” says Rekha, pointing towards a picture of her husband in uniform. She shifted to Delhi for the education of her three children who now study in English medium schools. Two of them study in Army Public School.
It is only later that she revealed the actual reason for shifting to Delhi. “I did not expect it from the people of my village. The fact that I got money as compensation made my neighbours jealous. They branded my grief for my husband as fake. It used to make me feel very sad. Then the offer for this apartment came which I accepted readily because people here understand my grief,” she says, pointing towards her neighbours in the cluster.
Rekha is also a little disillusioned with the Army and the Government. “When the Kargil Operation was new, the authorities used to come and enquire about our problems. But now, no one comes,” rues Rekha, who runs her family on the Army pension.