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Soldier’s kin get last glimpse, 18 years on

Lucknow, Aug. 21: For 18 years since being told his son had died in Siachen, Gajadhar Prasad Singh had prayed for a glimpse of the soldier and the dignity of a funeral.

That wish was fulfilled today when Gaya Prasad’s body was brought home and the soldier’s son, Satish, 19, lit the pyre, watched by a large crowd of mourners that included army personnel who gave a gun-salute.

“They brought my son home 18 years after his death. It had been difficult so long, hearing he was dead but not being able to see his body. We had always hoped and prayed to God for a last glimpse. Finally, we saw him cremated,” Gajadhar, 90, said at home in Mainpuri’s Gubaria village where the family of farmers is based.

Gaya Prasad had died in 1996 after falling into a crevasse in Siachen. He was 35. His body was found in the snow earlier this week.

Last night, the body, draped in the Tricolour, was brought to the village, 215km from Lucknow, accompanied by soldiers of the 29th Rajputs battalion. Gaya Prasad was a member of the 15 Rajputs battalion.

An army doctor, Adesh Kumar, said the soldier’s body had not decomposed much over the past decade-and-a-half because of the sub-zero temperatures in Siachen.

But for Rama Devi, the soldier’s wife, the arrival of her husband’s body dashed all hopes of a miracle that she had been hoping for all these years.

“I saw him today. It’s all over now. The faintest hope that he could somehow come back is gone. Still, we could bid him farewell,” Rama, 42, said, barely able to fight back her tears.

Other than son Satish, a graduate, Rama has two daughters, Meena 20 and Manju, 19, both of whom are married.

“Gaya Prasad is the hero of Mainpuri,” said Lok Sabha MP Dharmendra Yadav, who is Mulayam Singh Yadav’s nephew. Dharmendra was among some politicians in the crowd of around 500 that thronged the funeral this afternoon.

Mulayam had won from the Mainpuri Lok Sabha constituency in this year’s general election. But he vacated it and retained Azamgarh, the other seat from where he was elected.