CRPF officer unfurled tricolour in Srinagar, killed in encounter hour later

  • Toufiq Rashid, Hindustan Times, Srinagar
  • Updated: Aug 16, 2016 19:09 IST
CRPF commandant Pramod Kumar (right) was killed in a gunfight with militants in Srinagar, J-K, on August 15, 2016. (Photo courtesy: CRPF )

CRPF commandant Pramod Kumar unfurled and saluted the national flag at 8.29am on Independence Day and reminded his colleagues in the paramilitary force posted in restive Kashmir to uphold honestly the call of duty.

The brave officer went beyond the call of duty minutes after an inspiring speech at the ceremony, leading his men in a fierce gun battle with militants holed up in Srinagar’s old city. Around 9.30am, the 44-year-old Kumar lay motionless with fatal bullet wounds in the neck.

“Commander down, commander down,” crackled the wireless set.

The commandant of the 49 Battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) was rushed to the army base hospital in Srinagar. He was in coma. By noon, he was declared dead.

He is survived by wife Neha, seven-year-old daughter Aarna, and his 63-year-old father.

Born in Patna’s Bakhtiyarpur village, Kumar was from Jamtara in Jharkhand where his family had shifted. The body was airlifted to his native place for the last rites.

Eight CRPF men were wounded in the Nowhatta shooting, while a Jammu and Kashmir police officer, who was shot in the head, is battling for life.

The attack on security forces in the old city is a first after more than a decade; the last major instance probably goes back to the 1990s when the bloodiest phase of militancy had engulfed Kashmir Valley.

Kashmir has been on the edge since security forces gunned down Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8, triggering a wave of protests in which more than 50 people have died and thousands wounded.

Militants have taken advantage of the unrest and growing public loathing against the security forces, making it all the more difficult for people like Kumar to restore peace and keep the morale of troops high.

His August 15 speech at the CRPF deputy inspector general’s office in the city’s Karan Nagar area reflected his thoughts.

“We are not only faced with terrorism, but also stone pelting in Kashmir. I urge you to undertake the duties assigned to you honestly to uphold the country’s integrity, solidarity and freedom that we achieved after an immense struggle,” he said.

Commandant Pramod Kumar unfurled the national flag at the office of the CRPF’s Deputy Inspector General in the city’s Karan Nagar area. (Photo courtesy: CRPF)

Kumar has just finished reading out a message from his boss when news of a militant attack barely 3km away in Nowhatta reached him. He dashed out with a small team in a bullet-proof vehicle.

“He was leading from the front when he was shot,” CRPF spokesperson Bhavesh Choudhary said.

The CRPF believe Kumar shot dead one of the two militants killed in the battle.

Kumar was appointed directly an officer in January 1998 and promoted to the rank of commandant on July 12 this year. He was serving in Srinagar since April 2014, and was awaiting a new posting after the promotion.

He served in the Special Protection Group, which guards the Prime Minister and a select group of VVIPs, between 2011 and 2013.

In a video of the Independence Day event, Kumar is seen looking at his watch just before he ended his speech and saying “it is an important day”, unaware of the fate that awaited him.

A senior CRPF officer who served with Kumar in the Northeast said the officer was very “cool but daring”, reports PTI. “We will never know why he said yesterday that it was an important day. May be he had some premonition of the events that unfolded in quick time,” he said.

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