The sound of gunfire shook Subedar Fateh Singh’s family from sleep. He had gone out on duty and the family’s first thought was to alert him not to go towards that side of the mess, said his daughter Madhu Radha, 23, but their calls went unanswered. It was only the following day that they got to know he had fallen to terrorists’ bullets.
Singh, a shooter who won gold and silver for India at the 1995 Commonwealth Games, retired as an honorary captain from the Dogra Regiment in 2009, then joined the Defence Service Corps and was posted in Pathankot a year-and-a-half ago. His family lives in Mhow.
Madhu, her younger brother Nitin and their mother Shobha had arrived in Pathankot for the holidays only two days earlier. They were sleeping in Singh’s single room when the shots woke them.
“Papa left around 2 am as his duty was to start at 3 am. After we heard the shots we got up and came out and started looking for Papa,” said Madhu, a postgraduate in English working as a teacher.
“An Air Force personnel asked us to go inside as the firing was very close to our room and told us that some terrorists have entered the air base. We went inside and hid under the bed… Not knowing that Papa had already fallen to terrorists’ bullets, we kept calling on his cellphone but got no reply,” she told The Indian Express from Mhow, where the family has returned.
“In the morning, a close friend of Papa took us to his home. They told us he was admitted to hospital with a bullet injury but he was fine. We waited all day and when my mother insisted on meeting my father, she was told only today (Sunday) about his death while we came to know about it in the evening,” she said.
Singh has another son, Gurdeep, who is in the Army and is on his way from Assam.
Fateh Singh’s brother Surjeet Singh said, “This is the second time he has done his country proud. The first time was by winning medals, this time he has sacrificed his life for the security of the country.”
Partap Singh, a retired Army veteran from the same village as Fateh Singh, said the latter had been honoured for his performance at the Commonwealth Games by then prime minister H D Deve Gowda.