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Ladakh face-off | Three calls that cut short the dreams of three families

Sepoy Gurbinder Singh’s father Labh Singh, third from right, with other family members.

Sepoy Gurbinder Singh’s father Labh Singh, third from right, with other family members.   | Photo Credit: Vikas Vasudeva

Sepoy Gurbinder Singh, Sepoy Jai Kishor Singh and Havildar Bipul Roy were among the 20 Indian personnel killed in Ladakh on June 15

Sepoy Gurbinder Singh was engaged a few months ago, Sepoy Jai Kishor Singh’s parents were looking for a match for him and Havildar Bipul Roy had been married for nine years. The three men died in the clashes in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley on June 15 — and with them, the dreams of three families across India.

Two days later, around 6.30 in the morning, a phone call from his unit informed the family of 22-year-old Sepoy Gurbinder Singh’s death. “Nothing has been same in the family since then. I couldn’t believe my ears. Now everything is over,” Gurbinder Singh’s elder brother, Gurpreet Singh, told The Hindu at Tolawal village in Punjab's Sangrur district.

Sole support

“Gurbinder used to send us around ₹20,000 monthly, which helped meet our expenses. We earn a meagre amount from farming on a jointly owned piece of land. The State government has promised a job for one member of the family, besides monetary compensation of ₹50 lakh. It’s our only hope for us now to live a dignified life,” says Mr. Gurpreet Singh. “The money from Gurbinder's salary helped us to start construction of our house, which is yet to be completed,” he added.

Also read: Ladakh face-off | Hours-long search for all the fallen soldiers

Sitting on the floor of their unfinished house, Gurbinder Singh’s father, Labh Singh, 62, with folded hands and moist eyes, was accepting condolences from visitors. “Our father has been in a state of shock, he has hardly spoken. No one in the family ever thought that Gurbinder would not return. But we are all proud of him,” said Mr. Gurpreet Singh.

“A few days before his death we spoke to Gurbinder; he told us he would be moving to another area and will not be able to call as mobile phone connectivity would not available there,” he added. That was his last call.

Siblings in the forces

In Chakfateh village of Bihar’s Vaishali district, Rajkapoor Singh, father of Sepoy Jai Kishor Singh, said he received the news of his son’s death from someone named “Pandeyji”.

“First, he told me Jai Kishor was injured in a fight with the enemy but after an hour, his second call broke the news that my son had become a martyr,” Mr. Rajkapoor Singh, a marginal farmer, said.

Mr. Raj Kapoor Singh has four sons. Jai Kishor’s older brother, Nand Kishor Singh, too, is in the Army and currently posted in Sikkim. His two younger brothers — Kaushal and Shivam Kumar — are still in school but both want to join the Army.

“He [Jai Kishor] used to tell me that he would take care of all my hardships. Now, he himself has gone,” his mother Manju Devi says, but follows it with a cry of “Jai Hind! Jai Bharat!”

On June 22, Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi visited the family and gave them a cheque of ₹36 lakh but Jai Kishor Singh’s parents also want his statues to be installed in the village school playground and near their home beside a pond. “The pond, too, should be named after my son,” demanded Ms. Manju Devi.

Fond father

Rumpa Roy, Havildar Bipul Roy’s wife, knew something was amiss on the night of June 16 when a call came from Ladakh and an officer asked her to give the phone to somebody around her. She gave the phone to Nikhil Arora, her landlord’s son.

Mr. Arora and his mother Renu Arora deflected Ms. Roy’s queries and told her it was a call to check their address. “We wanted the night to pass,” recalled Ms. Arora. “My abiding image of Bipulji is of him taking his daughter to school on his motorcycle,” she told The Hindu.

“It was his simplicity and helpful nature that pulled me towards him,” said Ms. Roy as she talked over the phone about their seven-year courtship before they tied the knot in 2011.

Rumpa Roy, wife of Havildar Bipul Roy, and daughter Tamanna. Photo: Special Arrangement

Rumpa Roy, wife of Havildar Bipul Roy, and daughter Tamanna. Photo: Special Arrangement  


Local hero

It was the same helpful nature that made him the darling of Bindipara village, a tiny hamlet on the foothills of the Himalayas in the Alipurduar district of West Bengal. When the Havildar’s body reached home, the villagers decided to keep their kitchens shut for a day as a mark of respect.

After spending two years in Meerut, when the Havildar with the Corps of Signals was posted to Ladakh in 2019, he shifted his wife and seven-year-old daughter Tamanna to rented premises in Kundan Kunj colony on Rohta Road in Meerut.

“He wanted a good education for her daughter,” said Rumpa. “With only one gate, he felt the society would be safe for us,” she recalled. The last time they talked over the phone was on June 9. “It was a usual conversation about our well-being during the lockdown. He was asking about the preparations for Tamanna’s birthday on June 27.”

Army personnel, she said, were always ready for the supreme sacrifice. “Family members are prepared for long periods of separation, but not like this,” she said, with a catch in her voice.

Though Havildar’s Roy’s father has some land and his younger brother has a job, Ms Roy said it was the older son who was the main breadwinner. “The State government has given ₹15 lakhs to the family and a job for a family member, for which I have submitted my bio-data,” said Ms. Roy.

A post-graduate in Bangla, she is keen on taking up a job. “His dream was to have a house in the city and a good education for Tamanna. I would like to fulfill it,” she said.

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Printable version | Aug 4, 2020 3:11:23 AM |

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