Short on age, long on grit: Bravery Award winners


New Delhi : She’s all of 13 but when Congress Kanwar of Rajasthan defied her parents’ diktat to tie the knot and stood firm on her determination to study further, she set an example to many others to raise their voice against child marriage. A hero, Kanwar is one of the 22 children to be honoured with the National Bravery award, 2007.

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“In our community it’s customary to get girls marry off at an early age but I never believed that my parents would try to do the same with me,” Kanwar said softly, a stark contrast to her gritty personality.

Congress, incidentally, is her first name. Her parents were struck by the word, and named her after it. Striking certainly Kanwar has turned out to be.

“One day, when I came home after classes, I saw some strangers having lunch at my house. My parents told me that they were marrying me off…I was shocked. But I refused and told the visitors that if they forced me, I would call the police. Scared, they left,” Kanwar said.

“But after that, my parents left no stone unturned to change my mind. They beat me, locked me in the house and heard none of my pleas. Thankfully, some of my teachers visited my house after some days and talked to my parents. After much commotion, they finally understood,” Kanwar told IANS.

To share her experience, Kanwar along with 500 other girls went to Berlin for a conference late last year.

Six-year-old Manas Nishad from Chhattisgarh is another child to be honoured with the bravery award.

Dressed in a maroon blazer, tiny Nishad’s endearing toothless smile is hardly an indication of the tons of courage that he wears on his sleeve.

“I saved Tomesh when he fell into the water,” he said, as his father stood by beaming with pride.

In Feb last year, Nishad along with his mother went to the village pond for a bath when three-year old Tomesh, who was playing nearby, suddenly fell into the pond. Although he was no expert swimmer, Nishad jumped in after him and managed to pull him to safety.

Delighted by all the attention showered on him, Nishad now says he wants to study hard and become a doctor some day.

Dreaming big, eight-year old Ankit Rai of Haryana, who not only managed to escape from the clutches of his kidnappers but also helped the police nab them, wants to study further and possibly join the defence forces later.

“I want to guard my country,” he said with confidence.

Of the 22 children to be honoured with the National Bravery Award, 18 are boys and four girls. Four of the awards will be given posthumously.

Lalrempuii of Mizoram was one of the children who gave up their lives fighting till the end.

“Lalrempuii was alone in the house when her neighbour sneaked in and tried to rape her. She must have cried for help, but since their house was very isolated, no one heard her. She fought valiantly but the man got the better of her and killed her…later he raped her as well,” said Hming Thangmawaii, 14-year-old Lalrempuii’s aunt who was here on her niece’s behalf.

“The police arrested the culprit later and he confessed to the crime,” she added – sad but nevertheless proud of her niece.

Lalrempuii will be awarded the Geeta Chopra Award posthumously.

The coveted Bharat Award will be given to 17-year-old Babita and 15-year-old Amarjeet of Haryana who saved the lives of their classmates when their school bus fell into a Yamuna canal.

Initiated by the Indian Council for Child Welfare in 1957, the National Bravery Award has completed 50 years of saluting those kids who, by their sheer grit, courage and determination, have set an example for many to follow.

The award ensures financial assistance to the awardees until they complete their schooling and also reserves seats for them in professional courses such as medicine and engineering.