“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, Pawana’s mother Vandana stared in disbelief at her husband’s lifeless face, held in their daughter’s little hands, before breaking down. The soldier’s seven-year-old son Ankit was inconsolable.
Neelam was among five soldiers who died in an explosion triggered by militants on Friday in Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri district. His mortal remains reached his Dalpat-Chak Kripalpur village here in a Tricolour-wrapped coffin.
Chants of “Neelam Singh amar rahe” echoed through the village as the soldier was cremated with full military honours. His brother and CISF jawan Angad Singh lit the pyre amid chants of “Jai Shaheed, Jai Army, Jai Hind”.
Singh’s son in Akhnoor on Saturday PTI picture
Recalling the last time Neelam visited home, his father Hurdev Singh Chib said: “I am proud of my son. He was a brave commando who laid down his life fighting terrorists.”
A few days ago, Neelam had come home for a while, the bereft father recalled. “He just had tea and left.”
Neelam’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,” Raghvir said.
But Neelam’s cousin Suresh 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.