Grief has blanketed the families of CRPF personnel who were killed during a militant attack on their convoy on Thursday. At least 49 personnel died in Pulwama district, Jammu & Kashmir, and 25 injured. The jawans were from the length and breadth of the country, and their deaths have hit their families like a ton of bricks.
“Why is God so cruel to us?” cries Babita Devi, the widow of Sanjay Kumar Sinha, a head constable with the CRPF’s 176th Battalion. From Taregna village, about 30 km south of Patna, Sinha was 44 and leaves behind his wife and three children—-two daughters aged 22 and 17, and a son aged 17 years. His eldest daughter was to get married soon. The family had recently renovated their ancestral home and were to inaugurate it at her wedding.
Sinha joined the CRPF in 1992 after clearing Class 12. His younger brother Shankar Sinha too is with the CRPF, posted in Bihar’s Nalanda district. Sinha left home to rejoin his duty in Srinagar on February 8. He had planned to return in two weeks to finalise the wedding arrangements. At about 8 pm on Thursday, his brother-in-law Jitendra Kumar learnt Sinha would never return.
Babita Devi and Sinha’s father Mahendra Prasad are shattered and inconsolable. Cursing fate, Babita is worried sick about what will happen to the family, who will take care of their children. While the daughters are pursuing their graduate degrees, the couple’s son is preparing for his medical entrance examinations in Kota, Rajasthan.
Broken himself, Sinha’s father, a farmer, tries to console his daughter-in-law, telling her to be strong.
Just as Sinha was to return to Bihar for his daughter’s wedding arrangements, another slain soldier, Hemraj Meena of Rajasthan, had promised his wife Madhubala that he would return in 20 days and take the family on vacation. The 43-year-old from Vinod Kalan village, Kota, was part of the CRPF’s 61st Battalion. After completing his Bachelor of Arts, he joined the CRPF when he was 25. His parents work as labourers on a farm and he was the first of six children.
Hemraj’s older brother Ramvilas says Hemraj had visited their village only a couple of days ago and left for Kashmir on Tuesday morning. On Thursday afternoon, Army officials informed his daughter that her father had died.
Hemraj had been posted in Kashmir for three years, before which he had served in Naxal-affected areas. He is survived by his wife, two daughters aged 18 and 14, and two sons aged 12 and four.
A village in mourning
The entire village of Govindpura Bansadi in Jaipur, Rajasthan, is mourning the loss of Rohitash Lamba, one of the CRPF men killed in the terror attack. His brother Jitendra fell sick upon learning of his demise.
The village stands with the family in solidarity, recounting how Lamba wore his patriotism on his sleeve. He would frequently speak to the village youth and encourage them to study and sign up for the armed forces.
“He was like an elder brother to me. He would always motivate me to study. He was so disciplined in his life that he never missed a task. He will always be remembered,” said Dr Anil Dangi, a neighbour.
Lamba’s parents work as farmers and his family struggled to make ends meet. After graduating from a government college, he joined the CRPF in 2011 and got married in 2017. The couple had a son on December 10, 2018. Lamba was overjoyed at this and had shared the news on Facebook.
After visiting his newborn, he left the village on Tuesday. A couple of days later, his family learnt of his death.
In Lok Nagar area of Unnai town, Central Uttar Pradesh, 35-year-old Ajit Kumar was killed in the attack. He joined the CRPF four years ago in the 115th Battalion, and had returned to join duty after a month’s leave. Before leaving to rejoin duty, he had promised his daughters Isha and Shreya a trip to Vaishno Devi on his next trip home.
Kumar was the oldest of five brothers, with three of his brothers working in different jobs in UP. On Thursday evening, his younger brother Ranjeet received a phone call saying his brother was among the CRPF personnel killed in Jammu & Kashmir.
Unaware of disaster
In Kerala, the local police team in Lakkidi, Wayanad district, was asked to break the news to the family of deceased CRPF head constable VV Vasanth Kumar. The police were at a loss when they visited the family and saw them going about their life as usual, ignorant of the tragedy that had befallen them. Requesting anonymity, the sub-inspector who was part of the team says his heart welled up when he saw Kumar’s mother, wife and children, aged eight and five.
Kumar, who was 36, hailed from a Scheduled Tribe family. His parents would make ends meet by working on farms as labourers. He had joined the CRPF at the age of 18, immediately after completing Class 12. Kumar’s father passed away only six months ago.
The police officer says Kumar had resumed duty 10 days ago after enjoying a vacation with his family. He says Kumar was upbeat since he had been promoted as a head constable.
A local panchayat member, requesting anonymity, says Kumar would often speak about hanging up his boots and returning to the village to take up farming. He says everyone in the village liked Kumar as he was always there to help people. He mourns the loss of an earnest and well-loved son of the soil.
(Inputs from Kumar Chellappan, Ramashankar Mishra and Rajendra Sharma.)