PATNA A statement Jharkhand Governor Draupadi Murmu made after paying last respects to the mortal remains of a soldier from the state who was martyred in Jammu and Kashmir has left many confounded. Murmu said the death of soldiers hailing from Jharkhand is worrisome and urged the Centre to do something immediately about it.
“A brave soldier has sacrificed his life for the nation. This is a massive loss for Jharkhand. Young men from Jharkhand (Jharkhand ke bachche, Jharkhand’s laal) are frequently getting martyred for the nation. This is not a good time (sahi waqt) for us. The central government should immediately take some proper step on this,” said Murmu in Hindi after laying a wreath on the body of gunner Shashikant Pandey, one of the three soldiers martyred after terrorists opened fire at an Army convoy at Pampore in Jammu and Kashmir, on Monday.
Soon after Murmu said these words to television journalists, there was confusion over whether she wanted the Centre to ensure that fewer soldiers from Jharkhand be martyred. “The statement, though bewildering, was not openly discussed immediately after being made as what dominated news on Monday was the massive crowd that gathered in Dhanbad, the native place of the martyred soldier, to witness his last rites being performed. But it remained a point of discussion in hushed voices all day,” said a senior journalist in Ranchi, the Jharkhand capital.
Leaders of political parties, though they admitted having been utterly confused about the intent of Murmu’s words, were averse to openly criticise them obviously because the words came from the Governor and on an issue as sensitive as the martyrdom of a soldier.
“May be the honourable Governor, who is not very proficient in Hindi, was carried away by sentiment at the loss of another soldier from the state and said what she did,” said Jharkhand state Congress president Sukhdeo Bhagat. Pandey, 24, of the 51 Rashtriya Rifles of Indian Army at Srinagar, was the latest of over ten soldiers hailing from Jharkhand who had been martyred in Jammu and Kashmir this year, pointed out Bhagat.
“The loss of so many young lives, no matter from which state, must have been troubling the Governor’s mind at that moment. Her words, however, could have been chosen and arranged better for the sake of clarity,” said JMM general secretary Supriyo Bhattacharya.
Murmu, 58, took over as the Governor of Jharkhand in May 2015 to become the first woman to occupy the highest post in the state. A native of Odisha and hailing from a Scheduled Tribes community, she holds a Bachelor’s degree and had been a two-term BJP legislator in Odisha. She was also a minister in Naveen Patnaik’s government when BJD and BJP had an alliance government in the eastern state.
“What the Governor actually said was that the Centre should take steps to ensure fewer Indian soldiers are killed in Jammu and Kashmir. She did not have only Jharkhand in her mind; she was talking about soldiers from around the nation,” said an official at the Jharkhand Governor’s office requesting anonymity.