| (Left) Saurav carries father M.C. Puri’s body for the funeral on Friday. Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi, Dec. 30: The teacher who died saving the life of a student finally found recognition from political dignitaries two days after his death.
President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam today wrote to M.C. Puri’s family and Union home minister Shivraj Patil dropped in at their home shortly after the IIT Delhi professor’s funeral at the Lodhi Road crematorium.
The family had yesterday voiced disappointment that the capital’s VIPs had continued to ignore them 24 hours after Puri fell to a gunman’s bullets at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.
A former mayor had been the only politician to visit them till Thursday evening.
The VIPs kept away even from the funeral, which was a private affair attended by family, friends and the dead man’s colleagues and students.
But later, Patil and home secretary V.K. Duggal arrived at the Puris’ Mount Kailash home. The minister said he was moved by the professor’s brave act of pushing his student Lalitha down and taking the bullets himself.
“He took care to see that other members (delegates to the conference) were protected and shouted to everyone to lie down,” Patil said. “We all stand by the family in this hour of grief.”
Kalam’s letter, addressed to Puri’s wife Raksha, expressed shock at the tragedy, a Rashtrapati Bhavan spokesman said.
The President, a former science teacher himself, wrote: “Kindly accept my condolences and convey them to the rest of the members of your family. I pray to the Almighty to give you and other members of your family the strength to bear the irreparable loss.”
Raksha and daughter Shelley wept inconsolably today as Puri’s body was placed on the pyre and son Saurav began the last rites.
A colleague, Prof. Suresh Chandra, described Puri as a noble and kind-hearted person, always eager to help others. “His sudden death is a blow to the field of science and research, particularly to IIT Delhi,” he said.
S.R. Arora, the principal of Hansraj college where Puri once taught, recalled how the professor had dropped in one day and handed him a sum of Rs 20,000 to start a scholarship in his father’s name.
“The attack on the scientific community is not an attack on ordinary individuals. It is an attack on those who are taking the country forward,” Union science and technology minister Kapil Sibal said.
He added that the scientific community would be provided protection, but in a “non-intrusive” manner.
“We must also realise that terrorists don’t give any notice and they choose their own time and place,” Sibal said, with days left for next week’s Indian Science Congress in Hyderabad.
IIT Delhi deputy director D.P. Kothari today issued an appeal to the institute’s students, most of whom are on vacation, to remain unafraid and “focused on science”.
“It is important that they and their parents know that the institute is well equipped, security-wise, to deal with any eventuality,” he said.
The Bangalore attack, he suggested, was aimed at “deterring young scientists and engineers from focusing purely on their work”.