A CRPF commandant was killed in a terror attack in Srinagar’s Nowhatta area on Monday, two hours before an Independence Day parade in the area. Eight CRPF personnel and a police constable were injured in the attack.
After a four-hour gunfight, two militants, believed to be “foreigners”, were killed, officials said.
Pramod Kumar, Commanding Officer of the 49 battalion, died after sustaining a bullet injury to the head. He was promoted as CO of the battalion on July 12, a day before his daughter’s seventh birthday.
Kumar, who hailed from Bihar, is survived by his wife Neha Tripathi, daughter Aarna and his 63-year-old father.
He was awaiting a new posting after his promotion last month. Decorated thrice with special awards from the Director General of the force for his “high operational acumen” and service, Kumar had been serving in Kashmir for the last two years.
Speaking to The Indian Express over phone from her home in Jharkhand’s Jamtara district, Neha said, “We chatted over the phone last night. He was insisting I send videos of our daughter, who is learning Kathak. He was so excited. This morning, I called him but he did not pick up,” she said.
Neha said that initially, she thought her husband was busy with the flag hoisting ceremony. “But when he did not return my call, I tried the control room. They told me my husband was injured. I was worried. I got in touch with others from his camp. They told me he was in the operation theatre. A couple of hours later, they told me he was no more,” she said.
Neha was with her husband in Srinagar till Holi this year. “He sent me here (to Jamtara) because I was facing medical problems and he felt I would be better taken care of here than in Srinagar,” she said.
The two got married in 2008. Kumar’s father Prabhu Mistry, who retired from Chittaranjan Locomotive Works, and Neha’s father, who used to work in a company in Bokaro, were neighbours.
Mistry has a speech problem and communicates by writing notes. Neha said her husband, the only son among five children, took care of the entire family. “Normally, officers can be strict. But he was so loving. He was a good son, a good husband and a good father. Aarna was his life,” she said.
Recalling her daughter’s birthday last month, she said, “He was busy with the Amarnath yatra so he could not come home. But he sent her a Barbie and a birthday dress through courier. We were hoping he would be home around this time, but he told us one of his senior officers was on leave, so he could not come.”
Neha said she has not told her daughter about Kumar’s death. “She saw me weeping in the morning. She asked me why, but how could I tell her? She is close to her father. I told her I’m feeling unwell,” she said.
The CRPF said Kumar’s mortal remains are being transported by a special aircraft from Srinagar to Jamtara, where his last rites would be performed in Mihijam village on Tuesday.
Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das condoled Kumar’s death, saying, “I am deeply saddened by the incident. His martyrdom will not go waste.”
In Humhama, Srinagar, a wreath-laying ceremony was held on Monday evening, attended by J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.
Giving details of the attack, IG CRPF Atul Gerewal told The Indian Express that around 8.30 am, militants, who had taken shelter in an abandoned building near Srinagar’s Jama Masjid, fired on a law and order team at Nowhatta.
“Militants were engaged by the CRPF and police teams; two militants were killed,” he said, adding that the militants possibly wanted to stretch the encounter.
Gerewal said the process to identify the slain militants is on, but “from appearance they look like foreigners and were on a fidayeen mission”. He further said it appeared that the Lashkar-e-Taiba could have been involved.
“Kumar was a dynamic officer… his battalion was posted in Karan Nagar,” Gerewal said.
This is the first militant attack in the old city in the last decade.
A CRPF statement said, “Leading from the front, Kumar and his men succeeded in eliminating two militants before he was hit. He was immediately evacuated to 92 Base Hospital, Srinagar, where he was brought in a state of coma. He succumbed to his injuries shortly after.”
A directly-appointed officer, Kumar joined the force on January 1, 1998 and served in various sectors and capacities. He served in Srinagar, Tripura, Assam, Jammu, Bihar, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh, CRPF sources said. At the time of his death, Kumar was posted as staff officer to DIG (North) Srinagar.
The CRPF said Kumar was “known as a gallant officer with a very amiable nature. He came across as an empathetic leader. An officer with high operational acumen, he was awarded the DG’s Commendation Disc in 2015 and the DG’s Commendation Certificate in 2011 and 2014”.
Kumar also served in the special protection group between 2011 and 2013.
With ENS Delhi