Government tags ‘expiry date’ on bravery, martyrdom.

published on December 15, 2012
KOZHIKODE: Even as the nation is all geared up for the Vijay Diwas celebrations on Sunday to commemorate the 41st anniversary of India’s decisive military victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war, the country remains ungrateful to the fighter pilot who led the retaliatory air strike on the first day.
The country has failed to honour the supreme sacrifice made by flying officer K P Muralidharan, hailing from Nilambur, who undertook a daring air raid over the Peshawar air base. As per IAF records, Muralidharan, belonging to the no. 20 squadron – The Lightnings, destroyed many hangars and airfield buildings before being shot down by Pakistani fighter jets on December 4, 1971.
Pakistani pilot, wing commander (retd) Salim Baig, who shot down the Hunter aircraft flown by Muralidharan, has written eloquently of the courage displayed by Muralidharan in his memoir ‘Air Battles – December 1971 – My Experiences.’
K Rajendran Nair, a relative of Muralidharan, got a letter from the Air Force headquarters on February 14, 2011, which had a bizarre headline, ‘Time limit for bravery.’
The letter said though the Air Force headquarters had taken a decision to recommend Maha Vir Chakra for Muralidharan on January 26, 2010, the Central Honours and Awards Committee of the government of India turned down the recommendation citing a two-year clause which said that the act of conferring the gallantry award had to be made within two years from the ‘date of act.’
“It is very absurd. Does martyrdom have an expiry date anywhere else in the world? How can the supreme sacrifice of laying down one’s life for the country be measured by bureaucratic time bar,” asks Nair.
“We don’t want any benefits or compensation from the government. All we want to say is that the nation should at least honour the supreme sacrifice made by a valiant young man,” Nair said.
He added that the time limit clause for conferring the honour on him was not a proper excuse as IAF officer, squadron leader A B Devayya, was awarded Maha Vir Chakra posthumously 23 years after the 1965 war, based solely on the description of an air battle in the autobiography of a Pakistan air marshal.
Belonging to the Nilambur Kovilakom, a royal family in Malappuram district, Muralidharan had a passion for flying and joined the Air Force at a young age. He was just 26 when he was assigned for the critical mission to Peshawar.
Lalitha Krishnakumar, Muralidharan’s sister and his only surviving blood relative, told STOI from Mysore that the family had never asked and would never plead for a medal for the martyr. “The government should recognize the supreme sacrifice and act on its own. I feel an honour loses value if we ask for it,” she said.

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