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Monday, August 15, 2005

Missing President’s banquet: Anguished freedom fighter writes to Kalam

Unable to contain his anguish, veteran freedom fighter Janardhan Prabhu (82) from Moodbidri personally has written a moving letter to President A P J Abdul Kalam explaining the circumstances in which he lost an opportunity to meet the President and attend his banquet hosted for veteran freedom fighters.

This is the second time the State Government has embarrassed the freedom fighter who was jailed for participating in the ‘Quit India’ movement.

“Last year the government contacted me to know whether I would attend the President of India’s dinner and I had readily agreed,” Prabhu told this paper. After a long wait, a mandarin when contacted by Prabhu categorically told him that he had been dropped from the list.

Initially he was skeptical to the second invitation from the government but changed his mind after being assured that last year’s incident would not be repeated. Prabhu in his letter to the President bitterly describes how the railways and the district administration let him down by not informing him about the suspension of the train owing to inclement weather.

“I had a deep desire to meet and see you in person,” Prabhu quotes the letter from memory and adds: “the desire has remained unfulfilled for no fault of yours.”

Prabhu also wrote how he met his MLA and chief whip in the Assembly Abhaychandra Jain and expressed his desire to make it to the event by plane.

Jain contacted Union Minister of State for Planning and Statistics Oscar Fernandes and apprised him of the problem.

“When Jain estimated that Rs 18,000 would be required for Prabhu’s total air travel expenses, Oscar Fernandes did not respond,” rues Prabhu while repeatedly asserting that he was humiliated.

Even after the unsavoury episode, none from the government had made any efforts to contact him. There was no response from the President of India’s office too after local journalists faxed photocopies of reports highlighting his misery in not making it to New Delhi.

“Would the government or these politicians apply the same yardstick if I were from a minority community,” Prabhu asks in pain.

Will Prabu be lucky the third time, next year? That’s a moot question.

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