Army chief visits slain soldier's family

Mathura, Jan 16 (IANS) Indian Army chief General Bikram Singh Wednesday visited the family of Lance Naik Hemraj, who was beheaded by Pakistani troops.

The army chief, his wife and senior army commanders visited Hemraj's village in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, and placed a wreath at a memorial in honour of the soldier.

"Being the head of the army, I consider them part of my family. (My visit) is an expression of solidarity and concern and (I came) to console the family," Gen. Singh said later.

He assured the family all possible help and support.

Hemraj was one of two Indian soldiers killed by Pakistani troops who breached the Line of Control (LoC) and entered Jammu and Kashmir's Poonch district Jan 8.

The Pakistanis took away his severed head. The other soldier's body was mutilated, according to Indian officials.

"The country, the countrymen, the army are all proud of the sacrifice made by Hemraj. I have assured them (family) that they will get all they are entitled to under rules as fast as possible," the general said.

"All their demands will be considered. Some of their demands deal with improvement of village infrastructure. We will take it up with the state government," he said.

The family has demanded that the soldier's head be returned to them.

Hemraj's wife Dharmvati said: "He (army chief) said he will take care of all our needs."

Gen. Singh said: "We respect human rights. Our soldiers fired in retaliation to shelling by Pakistani troops on the LoC."

"If a Pakistani soldier has been killed, it may have been in retaliatory firing. We have not crossed the LoC," he added.

Border tensions between India and Pakistan have risen sharply since the Jan 6 death of a Pakistani soldier in alleged firing by Indian forces along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.


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