118 years of Trust THE TRIBUNE

Sunday, October 4, 1998
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Lt. Col. Akhe Ram meets Queen ElizabethThey dared to defy

By Pritam Bhullar

WHAT has passed off almost unnoticed this year is the Saragarhi Day which fell on September 12. Of the myriad examples of rare bravery is that of the battle of Saragarhi. It is a tale of 21 heroes who thought nothing of their lives when it came to their devotion to duty. Each one of them preferred death to surrender.

Saragarhi was a small communication post on Samana ridge in the North Western Frontier Province (NWEP). The post commander was havaldar Ishar Singh, who had 20 men under his command. To attack the post, the tribals started gathering on September 10, 1897. On the morning of September 12, when their number rose to a few thousands, they launched an attack on the post. The Sikhs fought valiantly by repulsing charge after charge by the tribals.

Finally, the number of the defenders dropped to a single man i.e. Sepoy Gurmukh Singh. Shouting Wahe Guruji ka Khalsa, wahe Guruji ki fateh, he fought like a ferocious tiger till he fell to join his comrades in death.

This memorable act of conspicuous bravery and reckless courage evoked public appreciation. The British Parliament gave a standing ovation to the undaunted heroes and an immediate award of IOM was announced for each one of them. The dependents of the Saragarhi heroes were given two "morabbas" (50 acres) of land and Rs 500 each.

The British also declared September 12 as a regimental holiday for all the regiments enlisting Sikhs. Three memorials, one each at Ferozepore, Amritsar and Saragarhi, were raised in the memory of these heroes. The Saragarhi Day continues to be celebrated by the Sikh Regiment.

Soldier turned business tycoon

Lieut-Col Akhe Ram has proved the common belief wrong that a soldier cannot turn into a successful businessman. This simple soldier started a small textile unit with his meagre terminal benefits in 1966, after his voluntary retirement from the Army. In 1980, he established Gargi Weaving Mills at Panipat followed by Home Fashion, a few years later. He has recently launched Suratex India Ltd., a 200 crore export oriented company, which will produce spun yarns, denim and jacquard cloth.

Col Akhe Ram who is a well-known business tycoon in India and abroad today, was born on January 8, 1917. He joined the Army in 1936 and was commissioned into 3 Jat in May 1941. He has commanded two famous battalions i.e. 1 Jat and 2 Jat (Mooltan). He was awarded Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) as a captain. He was also Mentioned in Despatches twice.

Besides, he is a recipient of "Rattna Shiromani" award for earning substantial foreign exchange for the country. He has also been given "Vijay Shree" award for his service to mankind.

In May 1996, Col Akhe Ram was invited by Queen Elizabeth to UK for the re-enactment ceremony of the MBE. Again, during the Queen’s visit to India in October 1997, Col Akhe Ram was a special invitee for introduction to the Queen (see the picture).

They deserve a better deal

In his letter to the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister, a retired Honorary Flying Officer P.S. Virdi from Amritsar, has complained that the officers are always given preferential treatment in comparison with the personnel below officer rank (PBOR). He has quoted the example of issuing of orders for the refixation of pension on notional basis for the officers by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) at the end of May without even thinking that such orders should have also been issued for the PBOR.

Virdi is not the only one who is piqued over this issue, several others below the officer rank have also expressed anguish over their neglect by the MoD in matters concerning them. Admittedly, orders for the PBOR should have been issued either at the same time as orders for the officers were issued or within a week or so.

Mercifully, though after a gap of about three months, orders for the revision of pension of pre-1986, PBOR by notional fixation of their pay as on January 1, 1986, have also been issued by the MoD.

Since this point has cropped up, what needs to be remembered is that each pre-1986 pensioner/pre-1996 family pensioner who was in receipt of pension on January 1, 1996 is required to submit his or her application (in duplicate) to the Pension Disbursing Authority (PDA) by February 28, 1999. While in case of the PBOR, the PDA has been authorised to refix the pension, the officers’ applications have to go from the PDA to the CDA (Officers) and from there to the CDA (Pensions) who will refix their pensions.

Corruption and recruitment

That the recruiting organisations of the Army have been embroiled in corruption for the past few decades is known to all. But what was causing concern to the top brass in the last couple of years was that it had assumed such endemic proportions that even senior officers were getting involved in it. A solution, therefore, had to be found to rid the recruiting organisations of this malady.

After a fair amount of deliberations, the system of recruitment has been changed from April this year by involving staff from several branch recruiting offices (BROs) in each recruiting rally. Generally, the staff from three BROs is provided for each rally. For example, for the recruiting rally held at Chandimandir recently, the administrative support was provided by the BRO Ambala, whereas the staff to conduct tests was provided by the BROs Hamirpur and Rohtak. These rallies are to be conducted on quarterly basis in each recruiting zone. The recruiting zone Ambala has completed the rallies for the quarter ending September 1998.


Animals in the dock

By Sarla Sharma

"LAW", a legal luminary once remarked, "is an ass". And justice, it is axiomatic to say, is blind. Blind justice can not only be unjust but ludicrous too. In the eye of law, all men (and women) are equal. There have also been cases in which animals were treated on a par with human beings. They were hauled up in the court, convicted and punished in the same manner.

Animals were tried in courts because there were specific laws against them. According to an ancient Arabic law, the goring ox was to be punished by being stoned to death. As per ancient Greek law, if an animal killed a man, the animal could be prosecuted. If found guilty, the animal was banished from Greece. There were similar laws against animals in other countries too.

Animals, who have at one time or the other, figured as accused include dogs, pigs, horses, cows, mice, parrots, and termite.

Pigs were by far the most frequent offenders. In the 14th century, France, a pig that had caused a child’s death was tried, found guilty and hanged, in all ceremony, outside the town-hall. The pig was brought to the town-hall fully clad in human clothes. It is on record that a grown up pig convicted of murder was locked in the prison with other human criminals and treated by the jailor in the same manner in which human criminals were treated. In 1547, in France, a pig was let off on the ground of being of tender age.

In 1314 at Moisey, a ferocious bull got blinded with rage and gored a man to death. The bull was arrested, put in jail, tried, and sentenced to be hanged.

In the early 20th century, some Brazilian monks moved the court that the termites used to eat up all their food. Summons were issued to the termites to present themselves in the court. The lawyer appointed by the court to defend the termites argued that termites were, in fact, the real owners of the land. It was shameful on the part of the monks to put hurdles in the termites’ way.

The learned judge, in his learned judgement, said that both the parties should behave properly with each other. One party should not harass the other. The judgement was read out near the termites hill.

In Australia, a suit was once filed against a parrot for uttering insulting and humiliating words, against an honourable citizen. The parrot, being a parrot, just repeated the derogatory words. The judge admonished the parrot not to do so. But the prosecution thereupon pleaded with the judge that the insolent parrot be hanged. But the judge held that the words used by the parrot for the complainant were not malicious. The parrot was honourably acquitted.

King Nausherwan, the just, is also (as recorded by Firdausi) supposed to have administered justice to animals. In one case he held that a stallion on the loose which had caused great damage to the fields of a local chief should be killed in the very same fields. The carcass should be given to the aggrieved chief for his own use. The owner of the guilty stallion was also punished. He was ordered not to ride upon any animal thenceforth.

Several years ago, a magistrate in U.P. created history by committing a vagrant buffalo to prison. The jail warden, however, refused to allow the buffalo to enter the jail premises. It is not clear whether the jail warden had committed contempt of court by his failure to carry out the sentence passed on the buffalo by a competent court.

An extraordinary case rocked the Basel court in 1947. A hen had been charged with not laying eggs. The guilt was proved. The hen was ordered to be burnt alive.

In a Zurich court in 1942, a wolf was charged with cruelty because he had killed two small girls. The wolf was hanged in a public place until he died.

Barthelomieu Chasney, an attorney, immortalised himself by fighting a case on behalf of mice in France. In 1551, the mice had ruined a crop. The court sent summons to the mice but they did not appear in the court. Chasney argued that the summons were illegal and that fresh should be sent to each individual mouse. This was done. But still the mice did not come. It is not known what penalty was imposed on them for disobedience of court orders.

In 1932, nine dogs were charged in a Kentucky court with being vicious and dangerous. They were tried before a jury, found guilty and sentenced to death. And like human prisoners, they were housed in death row and given a final hearty breakfast.


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