Teenage heroes who nabbed militant and got bravery award in dire straits
It was the start of a seemingly normal working day on May 10, 2004. Two unknown men entered the campus of a local school in Assam's Kamrup district, fired on a teacher at point blank range and fled.
Teachers and students of the school chased the miscreants – who were later identified as ULFA members – but the pistols in their hands (and also a potential grenade threat) soon scared them off.
Ratul (20) and Rituparna (22), both recipients of National Bravery Award, had to discontinue their studies due to poverty (Photo: The Sunday Indian)
However, Ratul Chandra Rabha and Rituparna Boro, then students of Class VIII and X respectively, were not that easily scared. They chased the militants for almost three kilometers and eventually helped nab one of the men who had killed their teacher.
Recalling the incident the duo said, “We could not tolerate somebody shooting our beloved teacher. So, we ran behind the extremists and managed to nab one of them. Later, we were informed that we had been selected for the National Bravery Award. We were both very happy.”
Sadly, even though both kids received the highest national honour for their courageous act and were swamped by media and press interviews for months after, they were just as quickly forgotten.
Barely a few years after receiving the bravery award, both children had to give up on their education because of the weak financial background of their respective families.
Today, both Ratul (20) and Rituparna (22) are daily wage earners barely making ends meet. Ratul in fact feels that the awards and certificates are of “no value” to him now because his life condition remains as miserable as ever. Not that Ratul did not give it a fair try.
He joined several recruitment rallies of the Indian Army, but was not selected despite showing his bravery award credentials. As a result, he is forced to work on daily wages at a sand bank near his house.
He makes barely Rs 120 per day to sustain his family of six. “After receiving the bravery award I thought that I will at least get a government job. But my dream has not come true,” said Ratul.
Rituparna is also not happy with the way his life has turned out. Although proud of having met President Kalam and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, his life as daily wage earner and the dilapidated mud hut he calls home, seems to have taken the sheen out of his once heroic life.
“I had hoped that after getting the award I will get a job in the Indian Army or the state police department. I have even appealed to the Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and other politicians for help. Every body has given me assurance only. But nobody has been able to give me a government job,” he grumbles, shaking his head morosely.
Highlighting the family's economic situation, Rituparna's aging father Bijoy Boro wishes that the state had helped his son get a decent government job. "We hardly earn Rs 2000-3000 per month with our daily efforts and have been living hand to mouth for years now,” he says.
Today, Ratul and Rituparna continue to live in the hope that their appeal for help reaches the right ears.
By arrangement with The Sunday Indian