The country lost two brave and young Captains of the army’s elite Para special forces and a Lance Naik on Sunday in a fierce operation to flush out terrorists hiding in a government complex in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pampore.
The standoff with the heavily-armed rebels, firing guns and grenades, is turning costly for the security forces. Two CRPF men and a civilian were killed on Saturday since the terrorists stormed the Entrepreneurship Development Institute, a sprawling complex housing three multi-storey buildings by the Jhelum.
Unconfirmed reports suggest a terrorist was killed on Sunday. “That can be confirmed only after the body is retrieved,” CRPF spokesman Bhavesh Kumar said.
Early in the day, 23-year-old Captain Pawan Kumar of Jind in central Haryana came under a hail of bullets when he was leading troops into the complex.
Hours later, Captain Tushar Mahajan, a 26-year-old native of Udhampur in Jammu and Kashmir, took multiple hits while leading his men. He died in hospital.
Another soldier from 9 Para, 32-year-old Lance Naik Om Prakash, died of his wounds. The Shimla native, who was decorated with the Asadharan Suraksha Seva Praman Patra gallantry award on Independence Day in 2013, is survived by his wife and two daughters — aged seven and three.
The training centre in saffron-rich Pampore had more than 100 people — staff and students of the institute — inside when the militants barged in. The rebels allowed the civilians to leave the building.
The open space surrounding the complex made it difficult for the security forces to advance without getting exposed to the rebels firing from vantage points. Soldiers tried storming the complex at night but faced stiff resistance.
Police officers said the standoff could prolong because the institute’s canteen has supplies that can last days.
As an intense gunbattle raged, a portion of a five-story building caught fire on Sunday. But the blaze subsided after some time.
The standoff began on Saturday when the terrorists ambushed a CRPF convoy before taking refuge in the nearby government buildings.
Captain Kumar of 10 Para, a Jat from Haryana that is caught in widespread violence over his community’s demand for reservation in jobs and colleges, gave a peek into a soldier’s love for the country.
“Kisiko reservation chahiye to kisiko azadi bhai. Humein kuchh nahin chahiye bhai. Bas apni razai. (Some want reservation and some independence, I don’t want anything, brother, I want only my quilt),” he posted on Facebook on Saturday.
Born on Army Day (January 15), 1993, Kumar had a fun-loving personality with a passion for bikes, cars and cricket. One of his profile pictures posted in 2015 was of his dog Tyson, a Rottweiler.
Son of well-known Udhampur educationist Dev Rah Gupta, Capt Mahajan of 9 Para was enlisted into the army after he completed his course in the National Defence Academy, the country’s premier military graduation school in Pune.
“I am proud of my student. He was a topper, particularly in maths and sports. He has made the entire nation proud,” said Sunil Gorge, a teacher in Udhampur.
(With inputs from agencies)