SEPOY Mandeep Singh was to come home on leave for Diwali. His family will now receive his body on the day of the festival. All day Saturday, they kept waiting for the body to arrive. However, Army authorities kept the mortal remains of the 27-year-old, who was killed and his body mutilated by terrorists in the Machil sector of Kupwara in Jammu and Kashmir, at the Military Hospital mortuary.
Singh would now be cremated with full State honours at his village Anteri in Kurukshetra on Sunday morning. The village of around 2,000 people has a long history of sending its young to the defence forces. It has over a dozen retired soldiers, while around 15 of its youths are currently serving either in the Army or the BSF. But the news of Singh’s body being mutilated has left them in shock, and the village united behind his family as they sought “a head for a head” on Saturday.
Neighbours and friends recalled Singh as a humble man, full of life, who enrolled in the Sikh Light Infantry in 2009 after doing his Class 12 at the village senior secondary school. He got married just two and a half years ago. His wife, Prerna, 26, a constable with the Haryana Police, was in shock on Saturday.
Family members came to know about the incident around 1 am early Saturday morning, after a team of Army personnel from the Western Command at Chandimandir arrived at their house. In a few hours, the news spread, and the three-room, single-storey house at the end of one of the streets of Anteri received visitors through the day Saturday, offering condolences. Haryana ministers Karan Dev Kamboj and Krishan Pal Gujjar were among those who came.
Elder brother Sandeep Kumar (29), who works as a farmer, said Singh had taken leave and was to come home for Diwali as well as to attend the housewarming of their newly constructed house. Singh had last come for a month in March, for his wedding anniversary. Asking the government to act, Kumar said, “Do not force soldiers to be killed in instalments. Declare a war at once and see the bravery of sons of the soil.”
Singh’s parents Phool Singh (55) and mother Nirmala (48) struggled to contain their emotions and anger. Phool Singh, who works as a driver, said, “Ab to aar-paar karna hi hoga. Hamein sar ke badle sar chahiye (It is time for do or die. We want a head for a head).”
Her voice breaking, Nirmala said, “Sarkar ko badla lena hoga, nahin to fauj mein log jana band kar denge (The government must take revenge. Else, people will stop joining the armed forces).”
While Prerna was in no condition to talk, her brother Prakshit Tomar, who is in the BSF and was earlier posted in J&K, said they were raring to take on the terrorists. “Our government would have to take a strong stand on Pakistan stabbing us in the back. Give us orders and we will finish the story in a day.”
Kurukshetra district has now lost two security personnel in a week in J&K. Earlier, on October 24, BSF Constable Sushil Kumar from Pehowa in Kurukshetra had been killed in shelling from Pakistani Rangers along the international border in Jammu.