For 29-year-old Sanjay Prakash, having a brother in the armed forces was a matter of pride. Today, two days after a gunfight broke out between militants and security personnel near Pampore on the Jammu-Srinagar highway, the pride remains – albeit tainted by a deep gash of sorrow.
Sanjay was informed at 2 pm on Sunday that lance naik Om Prakash (32) had been gunned down by a group of terrorists holed up in a government building. The news left Sanjay crestfallen, but he was seized by an even greater problem – breaking the news to his brother’s wife, Krishna Devi (32), and daughters Muskan (7) and Simran (3).
Even as Chikhal – the martyred soldier’s village in Himachal – mourned his loss, Devi remained unaware of the tragedy because she was visiting a relative in Solan. “I am going there to bring bhabhi and the others home. Please don’t talk to her about this,” Sanjay said, adding that the family has only been told that Om Prakash is injured.
Sanjay had last met his brother when he came home on leave in December. “He was brave. I miss him but also feel proud that he laid down his life for the country,” he said, adding that Om Prakash’s death has hit their father Nek Ram and mother Dropti Devi hard.
Ram Lal, the lance naik’s cousin and a government teacher by profession, said the body would be brought to Shimla – located 15 km from Chikhal – by Monday evening. “We are deeply saddened by his death. Martyrdom is fine, but there’s a lot more at stake here. In Om Prakash’s death, an elderly couple has lost their son, a woman has lost her husband, and two little girls have lost their father,” he said.
Om Prakash had joined the 5 J&K Rifles, and become a part of the 9 Para (Commando) battalion after taking up a commando course. He was awarded the Asadharan Suraksha Seva Praman Patra gallantry award on Independence Day in 2013.