There was shock and disbelief on the face of Sangeeta Devi, whose faith in goddess Parvati had stood rock solid all these years.
Less than a fortnight after celebrating ‘Teej’, a Hindu festival for the wellness of her husband, Havildar Ashok Kumar Singh, she learnt of his death on Monday morning in the terror attack on an Army camp in Uri.
Devi’s world has come crashing down since her son broke the news. She has turned hysterical and has been fainting intermittently. Such was her condition that she had to be taken from Bhojpur to a doctor in Raktu Tola village under Piro sub-division of Ara, nearly 125 kms west of Patna, and administered intravenous fluid.
The slain soldier’s father, Jagnarain Singh, 80, a farmer, looked fixated as he sat with stony eyes. For the octogenarian, this was the second such tragedy in the family. His eldest son Kamta Singh, who was also a soldier, was killed in a similar terror attack in Rajasthan on September 6, 1986.
Yet despite the misfortune, Singh had encouraged his grandson, Vikas Singh, son of the slain havildar, to join the army because the zeal to serve the country runs in the family.
At Boknari village in Gaya, about 117km south of Patna, slain soldier Naik Sunil Kumar Vidyarthi’s eldest daughter, Arti, 14, demanded that her father’s real killers be punished even as she continued to sob.
“We should retaliate in the same manner as Pakistan did. Unless we attack them, Pakistan will never learn the lesson,” said Arti, adding she was proud of her father who sacrificed his life for the country.
“My son, during his last visit to Boknari some two-and-a-half months back, had promised me to celebrate this Dussehara at home with all family members and relatives. He had also assured me to get out ancestral house repaired during his Dussehara vacation. But God willed otherwise,” said the soldier’s inconsolable father Mathura Yadav.
“Mere Lal Babu (Vidyarthi’s nickname) ko bulao… Sab jhooth bol rahen hain. Mera babu ladai par gaya hai. Wo Dussehra mein zaroor aayega (call my son Lal Babu… My son has gone to fight for the country… They are all lying about his death. He had promised me to come during Dussehra),” cried the soldier’s mother Kunti Devi.
“We got a call from an army officer of Danapur Cantonment at around 6pm on Sunday when we were at Chandauti. My mother told us about the tragedy and we soon informed our grandfather,” said Arti.
Her two younger sisters, Anshu (12), student of class six at DAV Cant, and Ashika, a kindergarten student, were simply inconsolable. The soldier’s one-and-a-half year old son, lying in his uncle’s lap, is too young to fathom the tragedy that has struck the family.
“Lal Babu was the hero of our village and was an inspiration for the youth here. Right from his school days at the government middle school, Boknari, to the MSY College in Gaya, he was a good student. He used to guide students and encourage them to join the army, which he said was the best way to serve the nation,” Rahul, a village youth said.
Sepoy Rakesh Singh of Kaimur was also among the 17 soldiers killed in the terror attack.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar had announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 5 lakh to the next of kin of each of the three deceased soldiers from the state.