The proposed auction of a gallantry medal awarded to an Indian soldier by the British Government more than 60 years ago has been put on hold thanks to intensive efforts by the Himachal Government and the External Affairs Ministry in New Delhi. The medal, listed for auction in Britain on December 2, has been withdrawn from public sale.

A rare George Cross was awarded to Naik Kirpa Ram (8th Battalion of 13th Frontier Force Rifles) of Papral village in Bilaspur district of Himachal Pradesh posthumously in 1946. It was presented to his widow on January 1, 1946, by Field Marshal Lord Wavell, Viceroy of India, on behalf of King George VI.

The prized possession of Brahmi Devi, widow of Naik Kirpa Ram, was stolen from her house about eight years ago. An FIR was lodged by her at the Bharari police station on February 3, 2002.

The Himachal High Court took note of media reports about the proposed auction of the gallantry medal and issued notices to the State and the Centre. Meanwhile, police sources in Shimla said they had received an e-mail from one Ashok Nath, who claims to be the owner of the medal now, that he has withdrawn the medal from the auction listed for Wednesday by the British auction house Dix Noonan Webb.

When the controversy over the proposed auction arose, the head of Dix Noon Webb, based in the Mayfair area of London, said the medal had been “disposed of” by his widow in 2000 and not stolen from her house as claimed by her.

Brahmi Devi, who met Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal here on Tuesday, has denied having ever sold the medal to anyone. She requested the Chief Minister to have the auction stopped and demanded her medal back as the last memory of her late husband.