[ Nellie N Manpoong ]
ITANAGAR, May 18: There she was, a martyr’s wife, jotting down points and practising a speech in her hotel room. She was expected to give a speech during the grand opening of the first edition of the state level Hangpan Dada Memorial Trophy-2017.
Chasen Lowang, wife of Havildar Hangpan Dada, the martyred soldier of the 35 Rashtriya Rifles of the Assam Regiment, arrived at Itanagar from Borduria village to attend the tournament on football and volleyball, which was recently renamed after her husband.
On the afternoon of May 16, during the opening ceremony, when called on the dais to give the expected speech, Chasen was overcome with emotions and managed to say less than a few words and left the speech halfway.
From what we know, Chasen is a strong willed woman who now lives by the pithy motto of the 35 Rashtriya Rifles-Tagra Raho (Stay Strong). She has been trying to pick herself up ever since Dada was killed in a gun battle against four armed militants that began on 26 May, 2016 at the Kupwara district of Jammu & Kashmir, and lasted for over 24 hours.
For his bravado, the Union Government awarded Havildar Hangpan Dada (posthumous) the Ashok Chakra-the highest peace-time gallantry award, while the Government of Arunachal Pradesh announced an award of merely Rs 20, 000, which was highlighted in the national media as well.
“Had he been from Haryana, his wife Chasen Lowang Dada would have received Rs 1 crore”, a national daily had said.
However, assuring all possible help from the state government to the wife and children of the martyr, former Chief Minister late Kalikho Pul handed over a cheque of Rs 20 lakhs to the wife of the brave soldier as ex-gratia.
Present Chief Minister Pema Khandu also awarded Chasen Rs 30 lakhs by the state government for her husband’s services and sacrifice for the nation. She was also provided a job as a clerk in the Deputy Commissioner’s office in Khonsa, along with the assurance that the state government would bear all educational expenses till graduation of the two children of late Dada.
Also, the army pays Ashok Chakra winners or their families Rs 6,000 per month.
Although Chasen has been awarded the money and provided a clerical job, she said that she has been personally bearing the expenses of the education of her children. Her 10-year-old girl has been admitted to Ramakrishna Sarada Mission School in Khonsa, while her seven-year-old son is in the hostel of Ramakrishna Mission, Deomali.
Recently, Chasen said, she received a cash amount for her children’s education from MLA Wanglam Sawin from his LAD fund only a few days before she arrived with her family at Itanagar for the opening ceremony of the Hangpan Dada Memorial Trophy.
According to official procedure, Chasen has to provide the details of the educational expenses and then would receive the money, or alternatively be compensated for the expenses incurred by the state government and through the district administration.
Unaware of the procedure, Chasen said that she had not submitted any of the receipts or accounts of the admissions of her two children.
There seems to be a miscommunication between the authorities and Chasen on the matter.
Nevertheless, before leaving for Borduria on the morning of May 17, Chasen and her family also met Chief Minister Pema Khandu, who assured his full support in the matter and other issues she placed before him.
Valour does not have a price, and the awards, the money, the educational expenses of her children are all a small price to pay for Havildar Dada’s supreme sacrifice. Dada will never return for a Christmas Holiday or to celebrate Chalo Loku with his family or the villagers of Borduria. His children will only hear stories of their father’s valour from those who knew him well.
Meanwhile, Chasen will always be reminded of her first meeting with Dada every time she visits the Don Bosco village church, and the pictures frames on the walls of her house will only bring back bitter-sweet memories of when Dada was alive.
[ Nellie N Manpoong ]