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Will Pitambare's martyrdom sensitize us to introspect?

Will Pitambare's martyrdom sensitize us to introspect?

Author: S. Gurumurthy
Publication: The New Indian Express
Date: February 21, 2007

The army commander in Anantnag in Kashmir valley got a tip-off that the head of the dreaded terror outfit Hizbul Mujahidin, Suhail Faisal, was holed up in a crowded locality in the town.

Night was approaching. The mission was clear. Faisal, the coward with guns hiding behind civilians, had to be finished off with zero loss of non-combatants. Major Manish Pitambare, the best officer the commander had had and a dare devil soldier who had had many hits to his credit, was the obvious choice.

His high risk and successful tenure at the war zone was to end in another three weeks' time. But he was called to his last mission before he left the valley. And that became his final mission. He accomplished the mission for his motherland. He engaged and killed Faisal with zero loss of civilians and also saved his buddy who was hit by bullet. But the price he had to pay for this was his own life.

Merely 32, he left behind his shattered wife and child, just 18 months old, who hardly saw his father, besides his aged parents. The brave young soldier perished to relieve his motherland of a dreaded terrorist. This is not, but what follows, is the story.

On the next day, the Indian media - both print and show - had no space even to report on Pitambare's demise, much less celebrate his valour or revere his martyrdom. It was busy otherwise with the trivia the nation, thanks to the easy money that fashions life here, is increasingly becoming obsessed with.

This is tellingly brought out by one Rajeev Issar who happened to surf all Indian news channels on November 28. This is how Rajeev exposed what the stupid India media was obsessed about then.

On November 28, the day after Pitambare killed Faisal and perished, the headline news that dominated the Indian TV news channels all day were these: 'Sanjay Dutt relieved by the court', 'Sirf Munna, not a bhai', '13 saal ka vanvas khatam'. Salman Khan praised him as 'a good person'. Big B said 'he's like elder brother to Abhishek'. Priya Dutt said, 'we can sleep well tonight, a great relief'.

The other headline news was 'Shah Rukh Khan replaces Big B in KBC'.

The Parliament in session then was hopping mad at the poor performance of the Indian cricket team! Bored with the trivia in the Indian TV channels, Rajeev began to surf other channels. He was startled to read this news on the BBC: 'Hisbul Mujahidin's most wanted terrorist 'Suhail Faisal' killed in Anantnag, India.

Indian major leading the operation lost his life in the process. Four other soldiers also died.' Shocked at a foreign news channel reporting such important news about the Indian war on terror, Rajeev rushed back to the Indian channels. He says, 'it was past midnight and still Sanjay Dutt was ruling the stupid Indian news channels'.

The news channels were reporting how Sanjay Dutt was pleading with the judge that 'he is a sole bread winner of his family' and 'he has a daughter, studying abroad'. Rajeev's mind contrasted Sanjay with Manish. When Manish took on the terrorist in the dark night hours before Sanjay was pleading in the court on November 28, he never thought he had a daughter of just 18 months or that he was the sole breadwinner of his family. It is precisely to save innocents from AK-47 and bombs of the terrorists that Pitambare perished.

Yet it is Sanjay Dutt, who was given the benefit of doubt in Bombay bomb blast case and the proud owner of AK-47 suspected to be gifted by Dawood Ibrahim, who was the hero of the day's news. Pitambare's daring act or death was thus relegated to be reported in a foreign channel.

More on Pitambare. Just before he left on his final mission, Pitambare sent an SMS to his wife saying that he was 'leaving for an important mission' and would 'call immediately after returning.' Mugdha, his wife, said, 'I replied and waited for the call, but it never came.' 'For him', she said, 'the army was everything. We were all secondary when it came to his job or his mission.'

Despite being among the best students with the whole world of opportunities open to him in civilian life, he chose to join army to serve his motherland. The Rediffmail.com, an internet news channel, was the only Indian news purveyor to publish a tribute to Pitambare on Nov 28.

Sailesh Dhuri his classmate who wrote the tribute said: 'When I last met him a few years ago - I asked him why don't you take a transfer outside Kashmir. He said his country needs him the most there'. Yes, it was that need of the country for which he martyred.

Manish, leaving his young wife and small child, perished for the motherland like thousands of brave soldiers have in her cause - unreported, unsung and unwept.

Despite being ignored by the media thousands joined the funeral procession of Manish at Pune. Manish Pitambare and martyrs like him for the country have no space in the media that is addicted to promote Sanjay Dutts, Shah Rukh Khans, KBCs and cricket and is more concerned about Abhishek-Aishwarya marriage and Shilpa Shetty's success in London.

The shameless media celebrates the trivia and shuns the martyrs. Will Pitambare's martyrdom sensitise the media to introspect?

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