It was an emotional farewell as Lieutenant Colonel Elambulassery Kalarikkal Niranjan, who died in the terrorist attack at the IAF base at Pathankot, was laid to rest with full military honours at his ancestral house here Tuesday.
Niranjan, 32, a member of the NSG’s bomb detection squad, died while defusing an explosive from a terrorist’s body on Sunday.
Chants of ‘Bharat mata ki jai’ and ‘Niranjan amar rahe’ rent the air during the funeral atop a hill near the house at Kalarikkal in Palakkad district.
The body of Lt Col Niranjan being taken in a vehicle for public homage (Photo by Shaju Philip)
Earlier in the day, the young officer was given a glowing tribute by the armed forces and a tearful adieu by his widow K G Radhika, who was accompanied by 18-month-old daughter Vismaya. The body was shifted to a local school, where people from all walks of life paid floral tributes to the young officer. Flower petals were strewn on the road while the body was taken in a decorated army truck. The village and nearby areas observed a hartal, put up banners and wore badges as a mark of respect for the officer.
Niranjan’s body was flown from Bengaluru to Palakkad by chopper Monday evening. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and other ministers also paid their last respects.
Niranjan was born and brought up in Bengaluru, where his father E K Sivarajan was employed, but he would visit his ancestral home regularly.
Three years ago, his wedding was held in the village. The last time Niranjan visited the family here was during Onam last September. Relatives recalled that he had promised to join the 87th birthday celebrations of grandmother Padmavathiyamma in November. But he missed that date, for his final return two months later.
C Vinod, a villager, said, “We all knew that there was a young pattalakkaran (army man) at Kalarikkal. But we did not know he was a Lt Col who worked with the elite NSG.”
Sushuma, another resident, said, “The brave soldier and his supreme sacrifice has given our village a new identity. We are all mourning the loss of the family. Niranjan’s brother Sarath Chandran is a squadron leader with the Air Force,” she said.