As the funeral procession of Army Havildar Sunil Kumar began from his ancestral home in Tarapur village of Bihta, near Patna, on Thursday, his inconsolable wife Ritika Devi and 12-year-old daughter Sonali Kumari came out of the house and saluted him, braving tears and grief. “The government must avenge my husband’s martyrdom,” said Ritika Devi.
Sunil Kumar was among the five from Bihar who were killed in the Galwan border in Ladakh in a clash with Chinese soldiers on Monday night. His body arrived in Patna on Wednesday evening.
Thousands of local people participated in 15-km-long funeral procession to the cremation ground at Haldi Chhapra in Maner on the banks of the Ganga. Youths in the procession carried a 400-metre-long tri-colour amid slogans ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’, ‘Sunil Bhaiya amar rahe (long live Sunil Bhaiya)”. People showered flower petals on the procession from rooftops. They also raised slogans against China and appealed to people to “boycott goods made in China”.
Elder son Ayush Kumar, 10, performed the last rites at the cremation ground.
Apart from Sonali and Ayush, Sunil Kumar, 35, had another son Virat, 5.
A native of Tarapur village under Bihta police station Sunil Kumar joined the Army in 2002 and his elder brother Anil Kumar too is an ex-Army man.
His parents — Basudeo Sah, 85, and Rukmini Devi, 80, were living in the ancestral village while Sunil Kumar was living near Danapur cantonment area in Patna for the education of his children. “Only few days ago he had called and asked me to take proper care of myself and not to leave father alone…but he himself left us alone,” said a sobbing Rukmini Devi in her home.
Similarly, the house of another slain soldier, Jai Kishore Singh at Chak-Fateh village under Jandaha police station in Vaishali district too was in a pall of gloom. His body will reach the village on Thursday.
Jai Kishore Singh, 22, joined the Army in 2018 and was second among four brothers. His elder brother Nand Kishore Singh too is in armed forces and posted at Sikkim. “He was very jovial person and fond of good things in life but couldn’t live life properly...I feel proud that he laid his life for the honour of the country… I’ll send my two younger sons — Shivam and Kaushal Kumar — too to the Army,” father Rajkapoor Singh, a farmer, said.
Mother Manju Devi is inconsolable inside the unplastered modest house. His elder sister Mamata Devi and other women of the village tried to console the parents and family members. “He was too young to die… full of verve and style… we can’t even believe he is no more with us,” said a villager.
‘Will send grandsons to Army’
The scene at soldier Kundan Kumar’s home at Aran village in Saharsa district too is no different. Putting on a brave face, his father Nirmindra Yadav, a farmer, said, “this must not be the end… I still have two grandsons and will send them to the Army”. Kundan Kumar’s sons are five and three years old.
Grief prevails at the residence of another soldier Aman Kumar Singh, 24, at Sultanpur village under Mohiuddinagar block in Samastipur district. “At least the government should make our 18-year-old youngest son join the Army so that he can too serve the country and take revenge at the enemy country,” father Sudhir Kumar Singh said in quivering voice. Kundan Kumar Singh was married in February 2019 and had last visited home in February this year. His wife Minu Devi and mother Renu Devi have been given medical assistance ever since the news was broken to them on Wednesday.
Another soldier Chandan Kumar hailed from Kora-Gyanpura village under Jagdishpur block of Bhojpur district. The youngest among four brothers and four sisters, he was to get married in April, but the ceremony was postponed due to the lockdown. Heartbroken yet feeling proud of his son’s death, father Hridanand Singh, a farmer, said all his four sons were in the Army. “Chandan was my fourth and youngest son who joined Army in 2017…I’m heartbroken over his death but feel proud that he gave his life for the honour of the country… I hope the government and Army will avenge the death of Chandan,” he said while breaking into tears in a television news broadcast.