NCC officials said the bodies of all five will be flown in from Kerala today after post mortem and embalming

A few days ago, Tabish Baqri’s profile picture on a social networking website showed him saluting in the ceremonial dress of the National Cadet Corps (NCC).

A second year student at the University Polytechnic in Jamia Millia Islamia, Tabish was all keyed up for a national trekking programme organised by the NCC, but on Wednesday —moments after the group took a breather from a trekking exercise — Tabish was one of the five cadets whose bodies had to be fished out of the turbulent waters of the Periyar in Kerala.

Tabish and four other cadets from Delhi who were part of the trekking programme lost their lives in a freak accident that took place in Malayatoor village in Ernakulam district.

According to a senior official of the NCC, the incident occurred at 12.30 p.m., when the group had settled down for a break and one of the boys went near the water.

“We are not sure whether he went to wash his face or his lunch box, but he slipped in when he got close to the river. The others jumped in to save him, but got caught in the current. The locals nearby too jumped in to rescue them, but unfortunately two of them died on the spot while three others were declared dead at a nearby hospital,” said a NCC official.

The deceased have been identified as Jamia Nagar resident Dilshad Alam; Okhla resident Mohammad Zeeshan; Old Govindpura resident Gulrez Ahmed and Hemant Kumar. Tabish, Dikshad and Zeeshan were all students at the polytechnic in JMI, Hemant was a student of a government school in Kalkaji and Gulrez was enrolled in Shaheed Bhagat Singh College.

While the NCC claimed it has sent off teams to inform the families, Tabish’s brother Kashif Baqri told The Hindu, that they heard the news from a college employee.

The Baqri family is from Bulandshehar in Uttar Pradesh and Tabish was staying in Delhi with his maternal uncle.

“We were first told that there has been an accident. They said something about drowning. As of now we don’t know what has happened to my brother and when his body is going to be handed to us,” said Kashif.

Gulrez Ahmed’s family too complained that the news was broken to them by the media.

“We were not told anything by the NCC, it was only when some journalists landed at our doorstep that we discovered something had happened to our child. It was their [NCC’s] responsibility to look after him, we had left him in their care. The least they could do was to send someone over to confirm the news. We are shocked,” said his uncle Faheem Ud Din.

The family has not told Gulrez’s mother about the accident.

“We have been sitting in the neighbour’s house…. we don’t want to shock her,” he said.

NCC officials said the bodies of all five will be flown in from Kerala on Thursday after post mortem and embalming.

“The bodies will be flown in a special defence aircraft on Thursday and are expected to reach around noon,” said the NCC official.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony expressed grief and announced a compensation of Rs.3.5 lakh per cadet to the families of the deceased.

The Defence Minister said an inquiry has been ordered into the incident and all arrangements are being made to airlift the bodies and for the funeral.

The cadets were a part of a group of 60 from Delhi participating in an All-India Trekking Camp at Malayattoor near Kochi in Kerala.

The national level trekking camp had commenced on December 23 and was scheduled to conclude on December 30.

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