Tej Bahadur Yadav, the Border Security Force jawan, who has challenged the Indian army is now a household name. Even as the army has tried to dismiss him as a disgruntled alcoholic, Yadav's family has stood by him.
Hanuman Yadav, his elder brother who lives in Haryana, told the Hindustan Times, "Ours is a family of soldiers. Tej Bahadur is the youngest of five brothers. One of our elder brothers is also serving in the BSF, while a nephew is in the army. Our grandfather was a freedom fighter in Netaji's force. If he has raised some issue, it is only because he wants our system to improve."
Earlier this week, Yadav, who is posted along the border in Jammu and Kashmir State, uploaded a video alleging that soldiers were given bad quality food to eat, while higher ups in the force illegally sold off rations in the market. Over the past three days, around 90 lakh people have watched the video and around 4.4 lakh have shared it on social media sites.
In the wake of widespread public outrage that his claims invoked, the army said that it is conducting an inquiry, but not before accusing Bahadur of being an alcoholic and indisciplined. The army said that he was court-martialed in 2010 for pointing a gun at a senior officer, but he was not discharged on humanitarian grounds because he had a family to support.
While the Home Ministry has demanded a full report in response to Yadav's claims, the BSF has issued fresh guidelines for maintaining high quality of food for its personnel along the border.
Yadav's parents told HT that he was so upset with the quality of food that he was even seeking voluntary retirement. "He would say, 'pashuon wala khana milta hai' (we get animal food)," his father Sher Singh told the newspaper.
Sharmila, Yadav's wife, has also supported him. "It is not wrong to demand food," she told ANI. "He has only shown the truth, but these people are saying that his mental health is not well. If he was mentally unstable then why was he sent to the border."
Speaking to The Times of India, Sharmila said that her was given 14 awards the by BSF in his 20-year career. "My husband's problem is that he is in the habit of not tolerating injustice, for which he has suffered during his service tenure," she said. "BSF is a disciplined force and in the armed forces even a small mistake is intolerable. If he had such a bad record, why was he retained."
Sharmila told TOI that Yadav had previously discussed the bad quality of food with her as well. She also said that her husband wanted to serve another five years in the BSF, but he was compelled to take voluntary retirement after completing 20 years of service on 31 January.
They have a 17-year-old son who is preparing for his engineering entrance exam.
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