Jammu : “Why are you not getting up? I don’t want anything, papa. Please come back,” 10-year-old Pawana Chib cried as she stretched out her hand to touch the face of her father, paratrooper Neelam Singh, who lay in a coffin before her on Saturday.
Standing next to her, Chib’s mother Vandana is staring in disbelief at her husband’s lifeless face held between her hands before she breaks down. The paratrooper’s seven-year-old son Ankit is also inconsolable.
Singh was among the five soldiers who died in an explosion triggered by terrorists on Friday in the thickly forested Kandi area in Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri district where an operation is underway to flush out terrorists.
As Singh’s mortal remains reached his Dalpat-Chak Kripalpur village here in a Tricolour-wrapped coffin, some wept and others tried to make their way through a crowd of hundreds who had gathered to catch one last glimpse of the “brave son of soil”.
The mortal remains were brought in a cavalcade from the Indian Air Force station in Jammu, where Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and Northern Army Commander Lieutenant General Upendra Dwivedi, among other top Army, police and administration officials, paid homage to the slain soldier at a wreath-laying ceremony.
Chants of “Neelam Singh Amar Rahe” echoed through the village as Vandana saluted her husband one last time.
Singh was cremated with full military honours. His brother and CISF jawan Angad Singh lit his pyre amid chants of “Jai Shaheed, Jai Army, Jai Hind”.
Recalling the last time Singh visited home, his father Hurdev Singh Chib said he is proud of his son.
“I am proud of my son. He was a brave commando who laid down his life fighting terrorists. He was born a warrior. As a child, he always wanted to join the Army,” Hurdev said. A few days ago, he had come home for a while, the distraught father recalled, adding, “He was so dutiful that he just had tea and left.”
According to Hurdev, Singh was inducted into the Army in 2003. Singh’s father-in-law Captain Raghvir Singh Bhau (retd) echoed Hurdev’s sentiments. “He was brave and never feared anything. He was part of dozens of successful operations in various parts of Jammu and Kashmir. He brought laurels to the para unit and the Army,” he said.
Singh’s cousin Suresh, however, was angry. “There is an attack every six months. How many homes will be destroyed? The forces retaliate and there will be a lull but then there will be another attack and another family will lose its son,” he said.
Villagers described Singh as a helpful man. “I joined the armed forces just because Singh encouraged and helped me. I am indebted to him,” said a villager, Rameshwaram Singh.
Another villager Sarita Devi recalled that Singh brought her medicines and other items whenever she was in need.