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A grateful nation mourns its martyrs

A tearful nation today mourned the passing of its brave-hearts Hemant Karkare, Sandeep Unnikrishnan, Gajender Singh, who laid down their lives fighting terrorism without carrying for their personal well being. Pay your homage to the martyrs of Mumbai | Surfers' responseSee Video

india Updated: Nov 29, 2008 20:34 IST

A tearful nation on Saturday mourned the passing of its brave-hearts Hemant Karkare, Sandeep Unnikrishnan, Gajender Singh, who laid down their lives fighting terrorism with nary a thought for their personal well being.

They were ceremonies that were telecast live on TV news channels and, coming as they did, a day after commandos of the National Security Guard (NSG) finally countered the efforts of a group of armed terrorists to take over two luxury hotels and another building in India's commercial capital of Mumbai.

To that extent, they were a chilling reminder of the dangers that the men in uniform face every day - indeed, every hour - of their lives.

Two of the martyrs - Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan and Havildar Gajender Singh belonged to the NSG and lost their lives fighting the terror siege militants were attempting in Mumbai.

Hemant Karkare, the celebrated head of the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad, died on the first day of the terrorist assault on Wednesday.

Karkare's body was taken in a flower bedecked open van from his home in Hindu Colony in Dadar East to the Shivaji Park crematorium in Mumbai. A crowd of nearly 5,000 lined the three-kilometre stretch to pay tributes to the martyr as a police band played along.

Most important Maharashtra leaders, including Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, Home Minister RR Patil and Mumbai Police Commissioner Hasan Gafoor, attended the funeral.

As terrorists on Wednesday night targeted 10 Mumbai landmarks, Karkare donned his helmet and bulletproof jacket and set out to take them on. The protection, however, proved inadequate and Karkare fell to the terrorists' bullets. In all, 152 people were killed in the attacks and 327 were injured.

The 58-year-old Karkare, a 1982 batch Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, was in the spotlight for leading investigation into the Sep 29 blasts in Maharashtra's Malegaon town. Ten people, including Sadhvi Pragnya Thakur and Lt. Col. Prasad Purohit, were arrested as a result of the probe.

In Bangalore, cries of "Major Sandeep amar rahe" and "Bharat Mata ki Jai" rent the air as hundreds followed the army truck carrying the body of Unnikrishnan, who was killed in a firefight with terrorists inside the Taj hotel in Mumbai.

Students in school uniform, young and elderly men and women in hundreds, walked along as the truck wound its way from the residence of the NSG commando in Yelahanka, about 12 km from city centre, to the crematorium, about four kilometres away.

Dhanalakshmi, mother of 31-year-old Sandeep Unnikrishnan, was inconsolable. She swooned as the Karnataka police band sounded the bugle after a police gun salute marking the beginning of the last journey of her son from their residence to the crematorium.

Unnikrishnan led his men into Taj on Thursday. During the gunbattle he was separated from his men but continued taking on the terrorists, according to NSG Director General JK Dutt.

To prevent his colleagues from getting caught in the crossfire, Sandeep told them to keep away. He was grievously injured and died on Friday.

In New Delhi, it was a solemn moment as senior officers of the NSG, the Indian Army and the paramilitary forces paid tributes Gajender Singh, who was killed in a gunbattle with terrorists in Mumbai's Nariman House on Friday.

The body of Singh, who is survived by his wife, was flown in a special aircraft to his hometown Dehradun in Uttarakhand on Saturday for the funeral.

Priyanka Vadra, daughter of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, told reporters at Gajender Singh's funeral: "I condole the death of those killed in the Mumbai terror attack and my heart goes to the security personnel who laid down their life battling terrorists."

"The nation is reacting to it unitedly and we should take a resolution to fight against terror. I have also lost someone to terrorism," she told reporters after casting her vote.

First Published: Nov 29, 2008 12:46 IST