Author's Note: I was scrolling through my social media and stumbled upon a heart-warming post, from ‘military’ writer, Rachna Bisht Rawat, intrigued, I reached out to her, wanting to know more about the man. Rachana responded, following which I contacted the man the man who sparked my intrigue. Here’s the story of Jitendra Singh, The Man Who Writes to The Families of Martyrs.
For most people the martyrdom of a soldier is nothing more than a social media post, a column in a newspaper or a notification on a news application, seldom evoking any emotion, perhaps a momentary emotion. For politician’s martyrdom is another cheap gimmick to garner some political mileage. The pain is only felt by the families the soldiers leave behind guarding our frontiers.
Now about to turn 42, Jitendra Singh, is a security guard by profession, residing in Surat. He may appear to be a regular man, like most people we come across, ordinary, unassuming, someone not warranting a second thought, but like everybody, he has a story.
He has been writing letters expressing his gratitude to the families of martyrs since the Kargil War in (1999). “I started writing letters to families of martyrs after 1999 Kargil war and till date have written over 5,000 letters to martyrs’ families. I have information and addresses of nearly 38,000 army personnel’s families. My objective is to offer my gratitude to the service their sons, husbands and fathers did to the people of India like me,” says an emotional Jitendra Singh.
Hailing from Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district’s Kutkheda village he was brought up in a ‘fauji’ family with generations of his family having served in the Indian army since the Second World War, given his family’s rich military history, it was natural that he had no other ambition other than joining the Indian army.
“My family members have been serving in the Indian army since the Second World War and I too wanted to join the army but failed. My father was in the Mahar regiment and during Kargil War, he would mention that the martyred soldier was from his company. From there onwards, I decided to write letters to families to the martyrs,” he said shedding some light on why he decided to start writing letters to the families of our martyred soldiers.
He further elaborated on why he was unable to join the forces, “I tried to join the Indian Army but failed in the physical test by just 1 centimetre with regards to chest and height requirements. I then decided to wear the uniform even if it meant becoming staff of a private security company.”
Though not a member of the forces, he is no less a soldier in spirit. He is a husband and a father, finding it difficult to make ends meet but his passion towards a cause he holds dear remains as unfettered since the day he started, even assembling a proper stationary weighing over nine quintals.
"I have been making use of newspapers to collect information and addresses of the families. I just want to tell their families that there is one man in Gujarat who thinks of their well-being."
Jitendra gets Rs.10, 400 as salary, despite the financial crunch, deteriorating eyesight, a result of writing letters in dimly lit areas and a family to take care of, his financial restraints have not once stopped him from buying postcards, even installing a stationary weighing over nine quintals.
Expressing his difficulties in sustaining his efforts he said, “When I started, one postcard would cost me around Rs. 15 paise and in last 18 years or so, the cost of one postcard has reached Rs.50 paise. I buy postcards every month.”.
He currently has access to over 5,000 families and has expressed his desire to reach even more families. He has tried to contact the Army headquarters in New Delhi to get the addresses of more families, but his request was understandably turned down.
“I have tried to contact Army Headquarters in New Delhi, in pursuit to get addresses of the families of the martyrs. But they say they can’t provide addresses like this. Therefore, I have been making use of newspapers and other sources of media to collect information and addresses of the families. I just want to tell their families that there is one man in Gujarat who thinks of their well-being,”
When asked if the families of the martyrs write back to him, he replied, “No. Not often. The condition of the martyrs’ families isn’t good and therefore they expect financial help from people who sympathise. I don’t have money to help them. Yes, I have phone numbers of many and some of them remain in touch regularly, but I don’t get letters in reply,”
The remembrance of martyrs and their sacrifice means so much to Jeetendra that he has even named his own son after Hardeep Singh, a martyr from Karnal in Haryana who sacrificed his life in 2003 fighting the terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir.
He has written to the families of the CRPF personnel killed in the Pulwama attack, with his efforts raising funds for them, but has refused any financial assistance for himself. Most recently he wrote to the father of Major Anuj Sood and the family of Colonel Ashutosh Sharma, both of whom laid down their lives in the line of duty in 2020.
While going through the the final edits of this re-dux Jitendra Singh wrote his first letter this year to the family of Havaldar Anil Tomar, a seasoned soldier from from 23 Rajput who succumbed to bullet injuries on Christmas night, last week.
Jitendra Singh continues to show the world that you do not need to don a uniform to make a difference and touch lives, and that heroes are defined by their intention, not the profession they are in.