“Bhai shaheed ho gaya…” said the voice on the other side when Suchha Singh, father of Corporal Gursewak Singh, a Garud Commando, answered his cellphone Sunday morning. The operation to neutralise the terrorists was still underway at Pathankot Air Base then.
Corporal Gursewak Singh was one of the commandos of the Indian Air Force who was martyred in the more than 48-hour long operation at the air base, which was attacked by terrorists in the early hours of Saturday.
Singh was posted in Adampur and was rushed to the Pathankot Air Base Friday night to counter the terrorists.
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“I had called him Friday evening but he disconnected my phone and sent a text that he would call later. Unhone kaha, phone karunga. Par agar phone nahi aaya, to so jaana. Aur phone nahi aaya (He had said he will call. If I don’t call, go to sleep. And the call never came),” said Jaspreet Kaur, 26, wife of Corporal Gursewak, as her eyes welled up with tears.
Jaspreet got married to Gursewak on November 18, 2015 — three years after their engagement. Being the new bride in the family, she is still wearing bright red wedding bangles (choora).
Gursewak’s cellphone was switched off Saturday. While the family knew about the terror attack at Pathankot, they were unaware that he has also been sent to guard the air base. “Last evening, one of his friends posted about the martyrs on a social networking site, but when I objected, he removed the post. I was worried, so I made a call to one of his colleagues in Adampur, who informed me that he had a word with his senior who has confirmed that he is on duty and safe. But in the morning….” says Jaspreet as her voice breaks again.
He had applied for a long leave, from January 13 to February 6, so that he could celebrate his wife’s birthday at home on February 5. Gursewak had joined Garud Commando Force, special forces unit of the Air Force six years ago, soon after completing his BA, following in the footsteps of his elder brother, Hardeep Singh, who is also in the Indian Army, posted in Dharamshala.
It was Hardeep who had made a call to his father Sunday morning to inform about Gursewak’s demise.
Singh’s father has also served in the Indian Army for a brief period.
“I would encourage my grandson to join the Army,” he said, while the martyr’s mother, Amrik Kaur, was inconsolable.
“He was intelligent. Not every youth from the village is able to qualify for the Air Force. It was a moment of pride for all of us. He would come home every weekend and was expected yesterday as well,” says retired Havildar Om Prakash, one of his uncles.