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‘Babaji’ not sanctioned leave by Army
‘Soul’ of dead Army man stays back
Deepkamal Kaur
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, October 4
After a local ex-serviceman filed a civil suit against the Army authorities for allegedly promoting superstition by following a four-decade old ceremony of bringing back the soul of a dead Army man from the China border to his home in Kapurthala, the tradition has been discontinued.

The ceremony is usually held in mid-September. However, this time neither any berth was booked in a train for the soul of Sepoy Harbhajan Singh nor did any jawan bring his uniform back. There were no relatives of the sepoy at the Jalandhar railway station to escort his soul to his native village of Kukan in Kapurthala district.

Brother of Harbhajan Singh, Rattu Singh, confirmed the cancellation of the ceremony this year. “This has happened for the first time that Babaji (as the sepoy is popularly known) has not been sanctioned leave by the Army. We got a call from the Army office that they couldn’t send him home this time because of some problem in adjustments. But, we held the ‘barsi’ of our brother at the village today where there was a turnout of more than 200 people”, he said. However, one of his relatives confided, “The army authorities apprehended that this could adversely affect the proceedings of an ongoing civil suit”.

Subedar Piara Singh, who retired in 1970 after serving the 1st Sikh Light Infantry Battalion and is now residing at Raipur Rasulpur village, has filed a suit for mandatory injunction in the court of civil judge G.S. Dhillon against the defence ministry, seeking such “superstitions” should not be advertised through media in future.

Subedar Piara Singh says he read a news item pertaining to the tradition in a vernacular paper and felt hurt as the Army never believed in such “superstitions”.

He read in the news item that Jawan Harbhajan Singh of 23 Punjab deployed on Indo-China border died on duty on October 4, 1968, but was still seeking all benefits provided to a living person, including pay and allowances, availing annual leave and promotions.

The ex-serviceman has pointed out that the news item has not been controverted by the Army authorities and as such sends wrong signals to the public at large that Army believes in “living martyr” Baba Harbhajan Singh. He has written that such incidents are bound to tarnish the image of the Army otherwise known for its valour.

When Subedar Piara Singh filed the suit, Baba Harbhajan Singh held the post of Honorary Subedar Major. Last year he was promoted Honorary Captain. There have been four hearings in the case. Army officials have stated that it was in no way doing anything for the ceremony.

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