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Millennium Post

UK restores George Cross to widow of Indian soldier

A British court has clinched a settlement for an 81-year-old Indian widow in a long-running dispute over the ownership of a precious gallantry medal awarded to her late husband, a World War II soldier in the British Indian Army.

The high court of London, in an order on 5 June, approved a pre-trial settlement that the George Cross posthumously awarded to Naik Kirpa Ram is the property of his wife Brahmi Devi. A campaign is now underway among the Indian community in Britain to raise 12,000 ponds as costs to be paid to the current owner, retired Indian Army officer and medal collector Ashok Nath.

‘The medal and the medal group remain in custody of the Metropolitan Police until payment to the claimant (Nath) of the said sum of 12,000 ponds,’ the court order reads. Justice Stuart-Smith endorsed the ‘exceptional and honourable settlement’ of what has been described as a highly complex dispute. A deadline of 31 December, 2013, has been set to pay the 12,000 ponds due to Nath, following which the medal will be returned to Brahmi Devi who intends for its subsequent placement in a public collection in India. The medal, one of the few Indian George Crosses, was awarded to Naik Kirpa Ram of the 8th Battalion, 13th Frontier Force Rifles, British Indian Army, on September 12, 1945, for his act of gallantry in saving the lives of his fellow soldiers at the cost of his own.

His widow, Brahmi Devi, then aged just 13, had been married just days before her new husband left for the battlefield. In 1946, she travelled from her small village of Bhapral in Bilaspur district, Himachal Pradesh, to Delhi to receive the medal in his honour from the then Viceroy of India, Field Marshal Lord Wavell.

Brahmi Devi’s only cherished memory of her late husband was then reported stolen from a trunk in her home in Bhapral back in 2007 and after years of knocking on doors of the Indian police and Himachal courts, it appeared on the auction circuit through auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb in London in 2009 with an anticipated market value of around 100,000 ponds.
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