Shimla: Not bothered about what material value London based auction house Dix Noonan Webb puts out for the rare George Cross medal which Brahmi Devi, octogenarian widow of Naik Kirpa Ram received on behalf of her dead husband on January 1, 1946, says, ‘the medal was stolen and not gifted as claimed by the auction house.’
â€œTheft of the medal was recorded in a police report way back in 2002,â€ says SS Chandel, a former army officer who brought the issue to lime light.
â€œNow that the auction house is considerate about the antecedents of medal arriving for sale with them, the Himachal police is assisting Brahmi Devi in filing an affidavit to lay rightful claim to the medal and stall the auction in London,â€ said Chandel.
The affidavits filed with the medal for auction are clearly forged, he says. Somebody named Kirpal Singh form Moga claims that the medal was gifted to him by the widow, who in turn handed it over to SL Jain for East Patel Nagar, Delhi. The affidavit of Kirpal Singh put out on the auction house website does not have a proper date. The Himahcal police are looking into the matter and have sounded the London police about the matter, he added.
Brahmi, widowed at 13, had received the medal from Field Marshal Lord Wavell, Viceroy of India on January, 1946. Despite the young age of her widowhood, she did not remarry and held onto the precious medal until it went missing in 2002. The theft was reported at the Bharari police station.
For Brahmi, memory of her husband tied to the gallantry award is more than the estimated auction price of 20000-25000 pounds put out by the auctioneers on their website.
â€œFor me the medal is priceless,â€ she said over the phone from her village Bharpal in Bilaspur district.
â€œIn a way Iâ€™m happy that they have been able to find the medal, now I only hope that the government helps to get back the honour my husband earned in the battlefield,â€ she added.
Taking suo motto notice of media reports, the Himachal High Court on Friday intervened and directed the state government to file a status report within three weeks.
Challenging the auction house’s claim about necessary sale documents being with them, Himachal police has let the London Police know about the fraud being played out on a hapless widow.
â€œBased on our information, the auction house has consented to probe the matter. We are confident the auction will be stalled,â€ says ID Bhandari, additional general of police with CID.
Chandel adds, â€œSuch a rare medal for an Indian Army soldier is covered under the Heritage Antiquity Act, and one needs know how such a gallantry award was allowed to leave the country legally or was it smuggled out of the country.â€
G.C. London Gazette 15 March 1946. â€˜The King has been graciously pleased to approve the posthumous award of the George Cross, in recognition of most conspicuous gallantry in carrying out hazardous work in a very brave manner, to:- No. 15634 Naik Kirpa Ram, 8th Battalion, 13th Frontier Force Rifles, Indian Army.â€™ The War Office recommendation states: â€˜At Thondebhavi on 12th November 1945, Naik Kirpa Ram was commanding a section on a field-firing exercise. He was lying close to a Sepoy who was firing grenades from a discharger-cup, the remainder of his section being in position beside him. The third grenade to be fired fell short and landed only about 8 yards in front of the section position. Naik Kirpa Ram saw at a glance that if it exploded there many of his section would be killed or wounded. Without a momentâ€™s hesitation he leapt up and dashed forward shouting as he did so to the men of his section, â€œGet back and take coverâ€. He picked up the grenade, but before he could throw it into a place where it could cause no damage, it exploded. The main force of the explosion was taken by his body, and he died of wounds shortly afterwards. As a result of his act only two men of his section were slightly wounded. Naik Kirpa Ram knowing full well the possible consequences, risked his life in order to save those of the men under his command. His fine spirit of sacrifice and devotion to duty will ever be remembered in his regiment and will be a constant source of inspiration to all ranks.â€™ Naik Kirpa Ram was born in 1918 in the village of Bharpal in the Bilaspur district of Punjab Hills, now known as Himachal Pradesh. He came from the Dogra Rajput clan, an ancient Aryan race that inhabit the Northern Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. Dogras have a long tradition of military service and in the early days of the British Empire they wore beards, as a result of which they were erroneously known as â€˜Hill Sikhsâ€™. The first all Dogra regiment to be formed in the British Indian Army was in 1846 as part of the Frontier Brigade (The Punjab Frontier Force). Kirpa Ram hailed from a military family, his father Mussadi Ram having served with the 57th Wildeâ€™s Rifles (Frontier Force) in France during the Great War. Kirpa Ram enlisted in the 13th Frontier Force Rifles on 9 January 1935, at the age of seventeen. After his initial training with 10th (Training Battalion) 13th Frontier Force Rifles, he was transferred to the 6th Royal Battalion (Scinde) 13th Frontier Force Rifles and saw field service from 2 June to 15 December, 1937, in Waziristan against the Fakir of Ipi. On raising of the 8th Battalion 13th Frontier Force Rifles in 1940, which was to comprise a company each of Dogras, Sikhs and Pathans, Kirpa Ram was transferred to the Dogra Company of the 8/13th F.F. Rifles. During the Second World War Kirpa Ram saw action against the Japanese with his battalion in the Eastern theatre. The 8th Battalion 13th Frontier Force Rifles had a splendid fighting record as is evident by their battle/theatre honours and awards: North Arakan, Kaladan, Mayu Tunnels, Maugdaw, Arakan Beaches, Ramree, Burma 1942-45. Kirpa Ram’s wife Brahmi Devi was only 13 years old when she went to receive the posthumous award of her late husband (she had been betrothed to Kirpa Ram, as was custom in those days, at the tender age of eleven). The George Cross was received by Brahmi Devi on 1 January 1946, and presented by Field Marshal Lord Wavell, Viceroy of India, on behalf of King George VI. She was accompanied by Major R. W. Niven who was Commandant of the 8/13th Frontier Force Rifles at the time Naik Kirpa Ramâ€™s brave sacrifice. Brahmi Devi went back to the village of Bharpal in the Himalayan Foothills; she never remarried and as a devoted daughter in law looked after Kirpa Ramâ€™s aged parents till their demise some years ago. Thereafter she has lived alone on the pension of her late husband and the small patch of land and cottage that was left to her. Although uneducated, she has been active in social work and donated part of her land to build a dispensary which was lacking in the village. The group is sold with the recipientâ€™s â€˜13 F.F.R.â€™ cap badge, an original group photograph (the only one known of the recipient), and two original affidavits confirming the passing of legal title of the G.C. from his widow in April 2000.
As Editor, Ravinder Makhaik leads a team of media professionals at Hill Post.
Spanning a career of over two decades in mass communication, as a Documentary Filmmaker, TV journalist, Print Media journalist and with Online & Social Media, he brings with him a vast experience. He lives in Shimla.