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MARTYR RETURNS HOME 

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By Staff Reporter in Calcutta
  • Published 17.07.99
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Calcutta, July 17 :     The Gorkha soldiers reversed their rifles and the bugles sounded the last post. A father and his two daughters stood still, clasping one another?s hands. A white coffin bathed in white wreaths lay on a table: Captain Kanad Bhattacharya of the Sikh Regiment had come home at last from the bloody terrain of Kargil. This is one day no father would want to see. The child he had seen born, the boy who had filled his life with so much joy, had returned in a cold coffin. But even if this emotion was tearing his heart apart, the fallen soldier?s father Kamal Kanti did not show it. Instead, he sat quietly on a chair with his daughters Purba and Jaba at the Indian Airlines? hangar in the airport, waiting for their loved one to arrive. They would turn to each other intermittently and smile. The pale, sunken eyes of Kamal Kanti were transparent. He did not shed a tear, but the pain was visible. A father who had never dreamt that he would see this day. IC-264 from New Delhi landed shortly after 8.30 pm today and 20 minutes later, an army truck rolled towards the hangar. A cluster of soldiers carried the coffin draped in the national flag and placed it on a table in the middle of the hangar. The first battalion of the Gorkha Rifles stood at attention as a host of senior army officers slow marched towards the coffin. One by one they came silently and placed a wreath. Finance minister Asim Dasgupta laid one on behalf of the government. And one by one, they walked up to the Bhattacharya family and offered words of comfort. Later, Kamal Kanti walked up to the coffin with his daughters and placed a wreath. Kanad?s mother Purnima could not come to the hangar. If Kamal Kanti tried to hide his grief in public, there was an unspoken sentiment among those who had come to honour the soldier: another young life was lost in a bloody skirmish that will soon be as stale as yesterday?s news. Another life had been wasted fighting an enemy which is not worth a single drop of blood. There was pin-drop silence as the young captain, who would have turned 25 on August 6, was given a guard of honour. ?We have all come ? from Fort William and the Bengal Area to salute our soldier. Kanad?s body will be kept at the Command Hospital overnight and taken to his house on B.T. Road in the morning. A few minutes will also be spent in his old residence near the Tala post office and then the body will be kept at Fort William for a while. Kanad will be cremated at Nimtolla ghat after a 21-gun salute,?? said an army officer, dabbing his eyes. When the Gorkha soldiers sounded the last post, the army officers saluted. Kamal Kanti, Jaba and Purba stood at attention. Even the perfect stranger found it difficult to fight his emotion, but the family was stoic. Captain Kanad Bhattacharya would have wanted it this way.