“Jai Hind Papa.” A stoic six-year-old Kabir dressed in army-style fatigues saluted his father one last time before Colonel Manpreet Singh, killed in the gunfight with terrorists in Kashmir valley, was cremated at his village in Punjab’s Mohali district on Friday.
Since early morning, Colonel Singh’s house in Bharaunjian village witnessed a steady stream of mourners who joined his inconsolable wife, mother and other family members in his final journey. An Army officer was seen holding Kabir as the family and others paid their last respects while a relative held on to his two-year-old daughter Banni.
Kabir was later seen clinging to the tricolour-wrapped coffin of his father along with other family members. He bowed before his father’s body just before cremation as “Bharat Mata ke Sapoot Ki Jai” and “Bharat Mata ki Jai” slogans rent the air.
The cremation took place with full military honours, including a wreath laying ceremony and a gun salute.
Punjab Governor Banwarilal Purohit, former Army chief V P Malik and Punjab ministers Chetan Singh Jouramajra and Anmol Gagan Maan as well as senior Army and police officers were present at Bharaunjian and laid wreaths. Lt Gen D P Vats (retd), a BJP leader, was also present.
Purohit and Anmol Maan were seen consoling the family members of Colonel Singh. In the morning, Colonel Singh’s mother was seen wailing as she waited at the doorsteps for her son’s mortal remains. A third-generation soldier, Singh’s father who died nine years ago, was an ex-serviceman. Some of the school teachers of Colonel Singh also turned up at the funeral.
“He was a gem for us. He was a gem for the nation,” said a teary-eyed teachers, adding, “He had said he would come in December”. Asha Chadha, a teacher of Colonel Singh in Class 1, described him as an extraordinary student. “We are very sad today but at the same time proud that we are teachers of a martyr who sacrificed his life for the nation.”
The Army officer, a Sena medal awardee, leaves behind two children, wife Jagmeet Kaur, a government school teacher in Haryana’s Panchkula district, mother Manjeet Kaur and brother Sandeep. Colonel Singh did his schooling from Mullanpur before graduating in commerce stream from a college in Chandigarh. He later cleared the Combined Defence Services examination and joined the Indian Military Academy.
Major Ashish Dhonchak, who died fighting terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir, were consigned to the flames on Friday in Haryana’s Panipat with full military honours. Three Army personnel, including the colonel and the major, and a deputy superintendent of the Jammu and Kashmir Police were killed in the gunfight with terrorists in the higher reaches of the Kokorenag area in the valley on Wednesday.