Lance Naik Chandrashekhar Harbola of 19 Kumaon, whose remains were found by an Army patrol on Sunday, 38 years after he went missing in Siachen, was cremated with full military honours as his daughters lit the pyre in Uttarakhand’s Haldwani, his hometown, on Wednesday.
Uttarakhand CM Pushkar Singh Dhami, Army personnel, and scores of people paid their respects to the soldier.
Lance Naik Harbola, who had joined the Army in 1975, was part of Operation Meghdoot launched by the Indian Army to take control of Siachen Glacier in May 1984, when an avalanche hit the group of 20 soldiers on way to Shankar Top. Bodies of 12 of the 20 soldiers were recovered during a search operation, while the remains of the rest, including Lance Naik Harbola’s, were never found.
A sea of humanity turned up at Haldwani’s Saraswati Vihar Colony, where Shanti Devi, 63, wife of Lance Naik Harbola, lives with her elder daughter and granddaughters. The two-storey house of the martyr was decorated, befitting the long-awaited homecoming of a martyr.
For Shanti Devi, the news of husband’s remains being found brought along a surge of emotions. While she was barely able to speak, his daughter Kavita, 42, said she “doesn’t know whether to be happy or sad”. However, many in the family were relieved at the closure.
Shanti Devi later said she was 25 when her husband went missing, nine years after their marriage in 1975. At the time, their elder daughter Kavita (Pandey) was just 4 and the younger one, Babita (Gurrani), was only 2.
Other than the Army pension, Shanti Devi also got a job as an Auxiliary Nurse Midwifery (ANM). “After the incident, we performed his ‘tarpan’ (the offering of water to the dead). Despite challenges, I raised my daughters as a proud mother and wife of a martyr…I am proud of my husband as he prioritised his service towards the country,” Devi said.
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Chandrashekhar’s younger brother Pooran Chandra Harbola has also served in the Army and he now lives in Haldwani. “The family has suffered enough…now, it is time to feel free,” Pooran said.
Dhami said all possible help will be extended to Harbola’s family. He said a Sainik Dham is being established and memories of Harbola will be preserved there.