National Book Trust has launched the Veergatha comics, a set of illustrated children’s books featuring 5 of India’s war heroes since Independence.

Veergatha In celebrating Param Vir Chakra heroes India gets its own Commando ComicsTwitter/ PIB
news Veergatha Monday, January 25, 2016 - 19:36

In November 2014, on the 52nd anniversary of the 1962 Sino-Indian war, India Today journalist Gaurav Sawant visited a school in Delhi to deliver a talk on the battle of Rezang La. Before he began his talk, he asked the young audience if they knew Major Shaitan Singh, the valiant army man with the Kumaon Battalion who led his troops with exemplary courage and died in the 1962 battle at Rezang La. Out of the 600 in attendance, only 2 kids raised their hands. Both of them were ‘fauji bachchas’, as Sawant puts it. No one else had even heard of him.

Sawant went ahead with his talk that day, but he was disappointed at the poor response to his question. So he took out his phone and tweeted out to Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani, and requested her to introduce the story of Major Shaitan Singh in school textbooks.

Irani tweeted back positively, and said that she will take it up. Within a few weeks, she took the proposal to the National Council of Educational Research and Training, or NCERT, which implements education curriculum and has a role in creating government textbooks.

Meanwhile, through the Twitter handle @adgpi, the Indian Army had also tweeted thanking Irani and Sawant, and promised support  for the project with all the required information.

The HRD Ministry, however, had a better idea. They wanted to narrate stories of all the 21 Param Vir Chakra heroes since Independence to Indian kids. And that was the idea which led to the creation of the ‘Veergatha’, a comic series on Indian war heroes.

On January 25, in the presence of Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani and Chief of Army Staff General Dalbir Singh, the National Book Trust launched the Veergatha comics, a set of illustrated children’s books featuring 5 of India’s war heroes since Independence. The rest will be released in the due course.

“They asked me to write the comics, and I agreed immediately,” says Sawant, who has earlier written a book on the Kargil War calledDateline Kargil. “But this was a different experience. We also tested the books with a small set of kids to improve it,” he adds.

The five comic books include the stories of Major Shaitan Singh, Company Quarter Master Havildar Abdul Hamid, Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal, Major Somnath Sharma and Captain Manoj Kumar Pandey.

“Students of all government schools in India will get the comic books through the NBT. It is targeted at the 7-11 age-group.

Sawant says that his inspiration was the famous Commando Comics. “As kids in school we used to read those comics, which were based on the Second World War,” he says, “but here we have taken authentic and factual accounts from the Army so kids can learn history and not fiction.”

“Being an Army kid myself this is a great honour for me,” he says.

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