On June 1, the panchayat allotted us some space in the village. We did a bhumi puja. Now, we want the (state) government to install a statue of Sepoy Hari Singh there,” says Bhim Singh, 50, about his paternal uncle, who died over two decades before he was born but whose ashes have just made their way home to Noganwa, Jhajjar district.
But “we don’t know how he looked,” says Ranbir Singh, who works at the district Sainik Welfare Office. “No one has a photograph of Hari Singh. Not even the Army.”
A part of the British Indian Army’s 13 Frontier Force Rifles’s 4th Battalion, Hari Singh, then 20, had been declared ‘Missing in Action’ (MIA) on September 13, 1944, during a World War II battle against Germany’s 362nd Infantry Division in Poggio Alto (near Florence). Recently, Italian authorities identified some remains found at the site as belonging to Singh.
On June 2, two urns, carrying ashes of Hari Singh and Sepoy Palu Ram, a resident of Nangthala near Hisar, who also died in the same battle, were flown in from Italy. The authorities there carried out a cremation of the remains, and the ashes were sent home to give their descendants an opportunity to complete their last rites.
As per service records, Palu joined the British Indian Army on April 7,…