Among Sukma victims: A sole bread earner, a father of three, an ace shooter and a young dad
A pall of gloom descended on villages of six slain CRPF jawans from Bihar who were among the 25 soldiers killed in one of the bloodiest Maoist ambushes at Chhattisgarh.india Updated: May 10, 2017 10:48 IST
Shakuntala Kunwar was looking forward to a festive week. Her house in western Bihar’s Rohtas district had been decked up for her granddaughter’s marriage on Friday and the youngest of her six children was coming back home after a punishing assignment in Chhattisgarh.
But that was not to be. Tuesday began for the 80-year-old with news of her youngest son Krishna Kumar Pandey’s death in a militant ambush in Sukma. An inconsolable Shakuntala only keeps repeating her son’s “unkept promise”.
“Krishna had promised to visit the village on April 28 to attend the marriage of his niece. He will never come now,” she says in a choked voice, adding that she brought up Krishna with great difficulty as a widow.
With her 11-month-old child in lap, Pandey’s wife, Anita is yet to come to terms with the tragedy, falling unconscious frequently. “My husband is alive. He cannot die,” she says, whenever she regains her senses.
They aren’t the only one.
Six families across Bihar were left devastated by Monday’s militant violence in the heart of India’s red corridor. The six - Saurabh Kumar (Patna), Naresh Yadav (Darbhanga), Abhay Kumar (Vaishali), Ranjeet Kumar (Sheikhpura), Krishna Kumar Pandey (Rohtas) and Abhay Mishra (Bhojpur) - were among the 25 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) soldiers who died.
At the house of Abhay Kumar Mishra at Tulsi Harigaon village in Bhojpur district’s Jagdishpur block, the family struggles to come to terms with the death.
They complain that Abhay suffered a bullet injury in his thigh about a month ago but wasn’t granted leave to come home.
He was also the family’s sole bread winner. “My father Gajendra Mishra is a marginal farmer and barely makes ends meet,” Abhay’s brother Amit adds.
His mother Madhuri last spoke to Abhay 10 days ago. “The conversation could not be completed as the connectivity was poor. Many attempts later to speak to him on phone also proved futile,” she says, tears rolling down her cheeks.
For Sourav Kumar’s family, controlling the flood of mourners proved difficult. “My son has attained martyrdom for the country. My family is proud of him,” his father Kamlesh Kumar says. He said Sourav had left for Chhattisgarh on March 29 to join duty after three months leave. He says Sourav had married Priti on June 25, 2014 at Dharupur in Patna district.
Ranjeet Kumar’s loved ones in Sheikhpura district’s Phoolchod village appear shell-shocked. “He had applied for leave on April 20 and was expected home any day this week. We were eagerly awaiting his visit,” Ranjeet Kumar’s cousin Parsuram Kumar told HT over phone. Ranjeet was married to Sunita Devi, 25, and had two sons, aged four and two. His brother is a wage-labourer.
Ahila village in Darbhanga district too was grief struck. Naresh Yadav, a native of the village, was among the Sukma ambush victims. Father of three minor children — two sons and a daughter — Yadav was scheduled to visit Ahila on April 27. “Instead, his body will now arrive here,” says an inconsolable Dinesh Yadav, the victim’s cousin.
At Loma village in Vaishali district, Abhay Kumar’s mother Rama Devi is crestfallen but prides in her son’s “martyrdom”. “Had there been a face-to-face encounter, he would have eliminated all the rebels,” a sobbing Rama Devi says. Abhay had celebrated his first wedding anniversary on March 10. “If I die on duty, it will be God’s reward to me because I am born to serve and safeguard the nation,” he had apparently told his relatives during his marriage anniversary celebrations.
But not everyone is sad.
Krishna Pandey’s elder brother Ashok is angry at the “apathy” of government officers. “No government officer has visited us. Only a chowkidar came to inform me about the death of my brother on Tuesday morning,” he says.
(With inputs from Prasun K Mishra in Bhabua, Prashant Ranjan in Ara, Mukesh Kumar Mishra in Patna, Avijit Biswas in Bhagalpur, Bishnu K Jha in Darbhanga and Rajesh K Thakur in Hajipur)