Dukli (West Tripura): Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das has been placed in an embarrassing situation in the wake of the family members of martyr Lance Naik Albert Ekka questioning his government over whether they had actually been given his ashes more than 44 years after his death on a battlefield in Bangladesh.
Ekka, a Lance Nayak of the 14 Guards of the Indian Army was martyred while fighting Pakistani troops on the Eastern Front on December 4, 1971. He died at Gangasagar near Akhaura in Brahminbaria District of what is today Bangladesh. His body was cremated at Dukli, near Agartala.
He was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra (PVC), India's highest gallantry award and the 'Friends of Liberation War Honour' as a foreign friend for his outstanding support and contribution to the 1971 war.
Three days ago, Chief Minister Raghubar Das went to Albert Ekka's native village Jari in Gumla District to hand over the urn containing his ashes to his widow Balamdina Xess Ekka and their family, but the latter refused to accept it as they doubted whether the remains were actually Ekka's. They demanded to know how the army could find Ekka's last remains so fast.
Vincent Ekka, Albert's son, said, "Why were we not taken to Agartala where the body of Albert Ekka was laid to rest? How can we accept the urn without verifying the facts?"The state government should have taken us there and brought the urn."
To overcome these doubts, Chief Minister Das has asked the state government to bear the total cost of travel of ten persons, including the family members of Albert Ekka for an on the spot verification at Dukli.
In fact, there is a small uncared for war memorial of the 14the battalion of the Brigade of the Guards in which Ekka's name is written along with his other colleagues. Most of the people who have settled there, are unaware of the existence of this war memorial.
Bhuban Das, whose house is only 100 metres from the memorial, recalled that fatal day of December 14, when 12 bodies of army soldiers were brought in a jonga (jeep) at dusk. He said that out of them, 10 were Hindus and they were cremated as per tradition. The two others, including Albert Ekka who was a Christian, were buried.
"The incident occurred in 1971 during the Bangladesh Liberation war. It happened at Gangasagar, on the day when there was air attack in Mogra, they died on that day. During the dusk hours the 12 bodies were brought in a Jonga (Nissan designed vehicle used by the Indian Army) vehicle. Out of 12, two were Christians - Albert Ekka and David. These two were buried and the other ten were burned together. From there we collected mortal remains and soil of the graveyard and constructed this war memorial and it is still here. But where the cremation happened houses have come up there. This war memorial is the only remains and it has the mortal remains and soil of the graveyard," said Das.
"During the Bangladesh War the store (of the army) was in my house and it was along Hawaldar Major Nikhil Bose, who was a Bengali, we collected all materials to construct this war memorial. Right for cremating the bodies to everything I was there," he added.
However, Das assured that no soil or remains of the martyrs have been collected recently from the war memorial as a small part of the outer base of the memorial was broke few years back for the broadening of a road.
He even showed the exact spot where the bodies were burnt and buried. Now, houses have come up in the area.