As the flames leapt up to the skies and the logs crackled in the pyre, Piyush and Vivek stood in stoic silence, tears streaking their young faces. Not many five-year-olds are called to perform the last rites of their fathers.
Across Bihar, in different villages, four funeral pyres lit up the dark, cloudy skies this morning as grieving people bid farewell to four bravehearts who laid down their lives for the nation.
The funeral of four martyrs of the Indian Army, who were killed in the Poonch sector of Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday, were performed at Chapta in Saran district, Jagdishpur in Bhojpur district and Bihta in Patna district early Thursday morning with full state honours and gun salute by the Army.
Four of the five soldiers killed were from the 21 Bihar Regiment while another, Kundalik Mane was from the 14 Light Maratha Infantry.
His body was taken to his ancestral village in Maharashtra and was accorded a state funeral with several top civil and military officials in attendance, including ministers RR Patil, Harshawardhan Patil, Hasan Mushrif and Bharatiya Janata Party deputy leader in the Lok Sabha Gopinath Munde.
While Piyush lit the pyre of Shambhu Sharan Rai in Harnahi in Jagdishpur (Bhojpur), Vivek did the rites for his slain father Vijay Kumar Rai at Anandpur Theka village under Bihta block of Patna.
At Harnahi, the stillness of the morning was broken by sound of heart-breaking wails as Piyush went up to light the pyre, laid out on the family’s own land close to their home. “We will build the martyr’s statue here,” a grieving family-member said. People shouted “Shambhu Sharan Rai Amar rahe” as well as anti- Pakistan slogans.
At Anandpur Theka, it was long wait for the family-members of Vijay Kumar Rai as poor road communication prevented the cortege from reaching the village last night. The coffin draped in the Tricolour reached the village only this morning.
At the cremation site in Vyapur in Maner, 22 kms from Patna, Vijay Kumar Rai’s son Vivek performed the last rites amidst slogan shouting by the villagers.
“Pakistan murdabad”, “Sarkar aankhe kholo, muhntor jawab do (Govt, open your eyes, avenge the killings” rent the air. The people also blocked the National Highway 31 for some time.
BJP leader Ravishankar Prasad, JD-U minister Renu Kudhesha, RJD MLA Bhai Virendra and senior officials of the administration were present during the funeral held with full state honours.
In Saran, martyr Premnath Singh was cremated at Simaria ghat on the banks of the Ganga, 50 kms from Patna, with his father Rajkumar Singh, 60, performing the last rites.
From the government, only the block development officer was present at the cremation site, which angered the locals. They shouted slogans against the local MLA Gautam Singh, who is also a minister in the JD-U government, for failing to attend the funeral. The locals also vented their anger against Pakistan through relentless slogan-shouting.
The last rites of martyr Raghunandan Prasad, 21 was performed by his uncle Tejendra Singh at Dumahighat under Ekma block in Chapea (Saran).
The Saran district magistrate, who was present during the funeral, villagers stopped his vehicle near Tajpur when the official was on his way back. They were demanding “proper response” against Pakistan.
The bodies arrived in Patna on Wednesday by an Indian Air Force plane where a large number of people including Army personnel, district administration officials and political leaders paid their tributes before the bodies were sent to their native places.
(With inputs from IANS)