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Thousands take first & last look at martyr

Bangalore, Nov. 29: Thousands who had not heard of Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan a couple of days ago today walked behind his coffin as Bangalore gave its martyr a hero’s farewell.

The 31-year-old National Security Guard officer, who sacrificed his life fighting terrorists at the Taj yesterday, was cremated at a crowded Hebbal electric crematorium after a 21-gun salute.

“We read about him in the newspapers and watched the events on TV. He laid down his life for the country. I felt I had to see him one last time,” said Prakash J.G, a provisions store owner who came leaving his shop unattended.

Huge crowds gathered before the Unnikrishnans’ home in Yelahanka and at the funeral, and his cortege paralysed traffic to the new international airport, with motorists parking on the roadside to catch a glimpse.

Colleagues paid tribute to the officer who, trapped in a corner at the Taj, had refused to be rescued lest the effort endanger his men.

“He was extremely focused whenever a task was given to him. He sometimes argued with his seniors or commanding officers if he felt they were wrong. It speaks a lot for his leadership qualities,” said an NSG officer, Deepak, who was part of the initial NSG team at the Taj.

“He was a dedicated and brave officer. His presence of mind saved lots of hostages, hotel staff and colleagues.”

Army officers and Unnikrishnan’s NSG colleagues carried the Tricolour-draped coffin. Some officers got upset when a group of pro-Kannada activists kept shouting patriotic slogans, refusing to leave after paying their respects.

“This is a solemn occasion, they should allow us to complete the formalities,” an officer said, requesting police to help clear them.

The major leaves behind his mother Dhanalakshmi and father K. Unnikrishnan, who retired two years ago as a non-technical employee of the Indian Space Research Organisation.

A year ago, he married his school sweetheart Neha but the couple separated. “We don’t want to talk about their private life,” a cousin said today. Neha came to the Unnikrishnan home yesterday but was not seen at the funeral today.

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