‘Veer nari’ keeps alive valour of martyred husband

Shreyasi Sinha Roy
Saturday, 26 January 2019

The India-Pakistan 1965 War hero from Maratha Regiment, Sepoy Tukaram Gawas, kept Pakistan tanks at bay in the Barmer sector of Rajasthan

Although it’s been nearly 54 years since she lost her husband, Lilawati still gets emotional when asked about her martyred husband and clutches tightly late Tukaram’s only photo she has in her house.

Her only aim in life now is to keep alive the legacy of the brave soldier from 4 Maratha Light Infantry (4MLI) Regiment, who along with his platoon thwarted advancing Pakistani tanks in Barmer sector of Rajasthan.

Reminiscing her husband’s valour, his widow (veer nari) with a teary eye, said that she was proud of her husband and she would always cherish the little time spent with him. 

“I could not spend enough time with him and I don’t have any child. But his family’s children are like my own. He was a brave son of India and I want to keep his memory alive till I live,” Lilawati says.  

Ramesh Shetye, nephew of martyr Tukaram Gawas, says, “My aunt didn’t get more than a week’s time to spend with my uncle. We live in a joint family and she not only took care of the elders but also devoted all her energy and time towards us. She always treated us as her own children. She would always narrate the tales of uncle’s valour to inspire us.” 

This is the reason why Gawas’ valour continues to be village folklore even after more than 50 years.

“There was a tank attack from Pakistan. His platoon of 10 soldiers was posted in a forward post which fought till the last breath to prevent the Pakistani army from entering India. In that battle, my uncle was hit by a tank shell and he was martyred. But the valour of 4 MLI soldiers gave enough time for Indian Army to launch a counter-attack and The enemy was repulsed,” Shetye reminisces. 

Tukaram’s extreme valour and ultimate sacrifice even moved the then Prime Minister of India, Lal Bahadur Shastri, who personally penned a letter to Lilawati, condoling her husband’s martyrdom.

But the interest for armed forces is also low in Goa despite bravehearts like Gawas belonging from the State.

“We are striving to ensure that the sacrifices of our brave sons don’t go in vain,” President of the Association, Capt DG Sawant (Retd) says.

Losing husband within months of marriage can be heartbreaking for any bride. But not for steely-resolved 75-year-old Lilawati Tukaram Gawas from Chandel village in Pernem taluka of North Goa district. Despite losing her husband Sepoy Tukaram Gawas in 1965 Indo-Pak war at age of 21, instead of breaking down, she gave strength to Tukaram’s family and kept alive memories of his valour to inspire following generations.

Martyr Tukaram Gawas is a hero. We villagers together raised funds to build a memorial in his honour.
—Subedar Namdeo Narolkar (Retd) (Local Army veteran)

The villagers pay respect to this brave son of Goa by paying floral tributes at the memorial built in front of the house 
—Ramesh Shetye (Nephew of martyr Tukaram Gawas)

My husband was a brave son of India and I want to keep his memory alive till I live.
—Lilavati Tukaram Gawas (Widow of martyr Tukaram Gawas)

We are creating awareness not only about Gawas but also of other such brave sons of Goa who got martyred in battles in the last 50 years
—Capt DT Sawant (Retd) (President of Ex-servicemen Welfare Association, Goa )

We have to revamp the memorial for motivating the locals and attract tourists. We are also striving to build toilet in Gawas’ house
—Anant Joshi (Chief Petty Officer (Retd), Joint Secretary, All Goa Ex-servicemen Welfare Association)

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