He gallantly fought Pakistani armymen and intruders in the heights of Kargil. For his heroic exploits in the 1999 war, he was even awarded the Vir Chakra. Now this chest out, chin up retired soldier is preparing for a different battle.
Fed up of illegal mining near his village in Rajasthan's Sikar district, Jairam Singh Tanwar, a Naik with the army's 2 Rajputana Rifles, has now shed the uniform and sounded the war cry against the mining mafia. Illegal mining of iron ore is rampant in the Shekhawati region where Sikar district falls. Mining has been going to such an extent that several homes in the district have developed cracks, threatening to leave the villagers homeless. Mining has also taken a toll on the groundwater.
The water table has fallen precipitously, making cultivation difficult. The villagers brought this to the notice of the district authorities several times. But their plea fell on deaf ears because of the nexus between the mining mafia and government officials. 'The mine lords of the area are thick with the district authorities. Even the police are involved in the racket,' Tanwar alleged.
The retired soldier said the mafia enjoyed the patronage of the local Congress MLA Ramesh Khandelwal, who Tanwar claimed had tried to implicate him in a false case. Tanwar has now decided to take on the mafia full time. He put in his papers with the army in November last year but was relieved only three days back, on August 31. Tanwar arrived at his village in Dabla in Neem ka Thana tehsil on Sunday. Around 2,000 villagers turned up at the railway station to welcome the war hero. As he alighted from the train, villagers hoisted him on their shoulders, put him on a horse and paraded him round the village.
Tanwar has vowed to fight to the finish. It all began in April 2011 when the local administration decided to build a road through the village to enable mining trucks and other vehicles to ply. A large number of villagers, including ex-servicemen and activists of the People's Union for Civil Liberties, formed an action committee to oppose the decision.
Tanwar said when the local patwari, Amar Singh, backed the villagers against the illegal road construction, he was transferred out by the sub-divisional officer, R.C. Gupta.Tanwar had come home on leave at that time and he, too, joined the month-long agitation. The police lathicharged and arrested about a dozen agitators, including six old women and two ex-servicemen. Tanwar evaded arrest but was named in the FIR. Three 'false' cases were registered against him.
“The youth, intoxicated with his admiration of a hero, fails to see, that it is only a projection of his own soul, which he admires”
Two more were slapped on him when he came to the village on a day's leave in July this year. In order to explain his position to his officers at the Delhi-based Rajputana Rifles Regimental Centre, where he was last posted, Tanwar wrote to his company commander, Maj Anurag Sharma.
Maj Sharma subsequently shot off a letter to Rajasthan's chief secretary C.K. Mathew on August 8 and pointed out that Tanwar was only 'fighting illegal mining in his village which has posed threat to the very existence of his village'.
A number of false cases have been lodged against him by mine owners with the help of a few government officials, including the police, Maj Sharma wrote. But, the letter obviously has had no effect and illegal mining goes on unchecked..