Six-year-old Vivek innocently implored his mourning mother. “Bring my papa back. My sister is so little. Papa was going to bring me a bicycle,” he said. Sepoy Vijay Kumar Ray, Vivek’s father, will not be coming back. He was one of the five jawans killed on the Line Of Control in Poonch Sector on Tuesday.
“I cannot live without my husband. Bring him back. All my dreams have been shattered,” Mr. Ray’s wife Pushpa Devi told The Hindu at the family’s residence in Thekaha Anandpur village in Bihta, Patna district.
Ms. Pushpa was glued to the television all of Tuesday. “My children were asking me for food, but I could not even serve them. My mind was occupied with the news.” A power failure in between increased her anticipation even more. When the evening news was aired, her worst fears were confirmed. “The fist two names were different, but the third one was my husband’s,” she said, words giving way to tears.
Mr. Ray (30) joined the Army in 2002. As part of the 21 Bihar Regiment, he had been posted in Poonch for the last three years. Last month he came home and applied for duty at the Bihar Regiment Centre in Danapur. However, his application was turned down, since the BRC did not want to post locals.
“Had the BRC kept him, he would have been alive today. He would have been with me,” Ms. Pushpa said. After the BRC rejection, Mr. Ray rushed back to Jammu on the July 28. After that there was little communication with his wife, the last call being made a couple of days ago.
The village Mr. Ray hails from has no road connectivity to speak of. With acute power and water shortages, Ms. Pushpa had moved out of the village and rented a room in Danapur so that the children could get a good education. Her younger daughter Neha is just three years old and too little to comprehend her mother’s sorrow. Mr. Ray wanted her to become a doctor.
Vivek, however, has picked up on the brewing anger in the family and village. “When he saw the news, he said he would bomb Pakistan when he grows up. What is the use of all these talks and compromises when such incidents continue? Before this incident the Pakistanis beheaded Indian soldiers. The government does nothing,” Ms. Pushpa said.
Mr. Ray’s younger brother Brijnandan Ray vowed to join the Army to avenge Mr. Ray’s death.
“There is a conspiracy behind the continuing death of our jawans. The government does not give any orders for action. What can you do with ‘samjhauta’ [reconciliation]? You cannot compromise on everything,” he told The Hindu.
In the Harnahi village in Ara, Bhojpur district, the family of Lance Naik Shambhu Sharan Rai was inconsolable. His wife Sapna Devi was too shocked to even say a word.
“What am I supposed to say,” she muttered as her weak frame lay on the ground, devoid of any strength. Her four little children – Priya (9), Priyanka (7), Priti (6) and Piyush (4) did their best to comfort her. The oldest, Priya, remained tongue-tied when asked about her father and bravely fought back tears.
The family’s grief was doubled as they were anticipating Mr. Rai’s return home.
“He spoke to us just the other day saying his leave has been sanctioned and all the paperwork is ready. But he did not come back,” said his wailing father Basidhar Rai. Suffering from a kidney problem, the aging father is on dialysis. He was dependent on Mr. Rai’s means for his treatment.
“Owing to our poverty, he enlisted himself in the Army and went to the border only to be gunned down,” the father said.
The air of happy anticipation has turned to gloom in Mr. Rai’s village. “We were so happy that he was coming. Now we are very sad,” his grandfather Harihar Rai said.
The loss has hit the village hard, where many families have personnel in the Army. “Bihar and the whole nation are angry. The government takes no action as our jawans keep dying,” Mr. Rai’s uncle Trilokinath Rai, an ex-Army man, said. He remembers the Lance Naik as a simple human being who spent his free time teaching his children.
“Our brothers are being sacrificed, our women are being widowed. We have to give a fitting reply for this incident,” said Renu Devi, a village resident.
The families demanded a government job for the family, appropriate compensation and education for the children.
In Chapra’s Sahota village in Jalalpur block, the anger among the people over the death of Naik Prem Nath Singh spilled on to the streets. People staged a rail roko near the Gorakhpur-Chapra line.
The situation in the neighbouring block of Ekma was equally volatile. Here the family of slain Sepoy Raghunanadan Prasad of Nautan village mourned the death of the braveheart.
“He was just 22 years old and had joined the Army in 2010. He was the sole breadwinner of the family,” Shivshankar Prasad, Mr. Singh’s cousin told The Hindu.
Mr. Singh is survived by his mother and a younger brother Tejendra Prassad. His late father too had served in the Army.
Bodies of the jawans are slated to arrive in Patna late in the night. After a memorial service in Danapur, they would be taken to their respective homes.