Prasad, who volunteered for the single-man suicide squad mission was shot in both the legs just while advancing stealthily towards the enemy position holding a few phosphorous grenades. Undeterred, he crawled up to the enemy position and neutralised it before succumbing to his wounds, reads the citation for Sepoy Anusuya Prasad's Mahavir Chakra.
Tears roll down the eyes of Chitra Devi (55), Prasad’s widow, as she looks at the Mahavir Chakra that was awarded posthumously to her husband, with whom she stayed for only about a week never to see him again. And while suffering has yet not ended, what seems to have been the elixir of life for the then young, 13-year-old widow are the stories of bravery of her husband that have now become a part of the regimental history. A parade ground at Sagar has been named after her husband and a statue of his has been installed in front of the unit that is today famous as Anusuya Prasad Battalion.
Forty years later, the woman has a dream — of visiting the location where her husband breathed his last.
“I was merely around 13 when I got married. I remember that my husband (Sepoy Prasad) had come down during a break from the training for collecting some documents — that is when we got married. Five days and he went back for training and went straight to the battlefield. What I received was a telegram, saying my husband was dead. I could not even read the telegram, forget understanding the severity of it,” said Chitra Devi who, in March 1963 went to Delhi to receive the MVC by then President V V Giri.
“I met Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who said I looked her daughter’s age. And then, she gave my hand to my brother-in-law at Rashtrapati Bhawan itself,” she recollects.
And while Indira Gandhi kept writing letters to Chitra Devi, her in-laws allegedly never let the letters reach the young widow. What followed in personal life was nothing but continuation of the sorrow she began her married life with. “Till date, I do not have any documentary evidence of my marriage with by brother-in- law. But I have two sons and a daughter with him. My mother-in-law would call me cursed and say I should stay away from her second son else I would be the reason for his death too. I would a receive pension of Rs 57 per month, which increased to Rs 376. Half of it would be taken by my in-laws. My children with my brother-in-law have still not been given the status of heir of Anusuya Prasad,” she said.
Chitra Devi, who had passed Class V at the time of marriage, cleared high school in 1992-93 despite the torturous life of a widow that involved not allowing her to wear new clothes, letting her to talk to strangers and barring her from attending ceremonies besides others. In 2002, I started an organisation called Veer Shaheed Anusuya Prasad (MVC) Mahila Samiti in Bhauwala, Dehradun, working for women empowerment. “Now, there are just two things I want to do — empower other women and visit the place where my husband fought bravely, for which I need a passport,” she said.
(Chitra Devi was in the city to attend the golden jubilee celebration of Anusuya Prasad Battalion which was formed on November 15.)