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Monday, January 24, 2022

Army aspirant, newly-wed: Two of Delhi locality among dead in Vaishno Devi stampede

Sonu Pandey, 24, an employee at a pen-drive manufacturer in Okhla, also lost his life in the Vaishno Devi stampede. He got married just seven months ago.

Written by Aranya Shankar | New Delhi |
Updated: January 2, 2022 6:54:56 am
StampedeBodies of the stampede victims have been kept at a Community Health Centre at Katra, in Reasi district (PTI photo)

Vinay Kumar’s mother had tried her best to dissuade her son from visiting the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu. It would be too cold and crowded, she had said. But he resisted. “This is the last time I can go. Once I get a job in the army, there won’t be any time. I need to go now.”

On December 29, the 21-year-old army aspirant left for the shrine on a night train from Faridabad, planning to return by January 2. On Saturday, Kumar’s family woke up to the news that he was among the 12 who died in the stampede late Friday night. It was Kumar’s third trip there.

“Vinay was among 12 people from our locality who had gone to the shrine. They were in groups of two. We made frantic calls to the others who were with him. One of them, Kapil, told us he had been injured, but that he was let go from the hospital after first-aid. He told us Vinay was still admitted. A little while later we were told he’s no more,” said Mahesh Chand, Kumar’s inconsolable father and a Delhi Jal Board (DJB) employee.

The family resides at Molarband Extension in Badarpur.

Barely 100 meters away, in another lane, the Pandey family was mourning the loss of their loved one. Sonu Pandey, 24, an employee at a pen-drive manufacturer in Okhla, also lost his life in the same mishap. He got married just seven months ago.

His grief-stricken mother sat covered in a blanket, intermittently crying between long silences.

“A couple of months ago he had cut his ring finger badly during work, which took a lot of time to recuperate. Once it healed, he said he needed to visit the shrine to thank god. But God took away my son. He was my support system in my old age. What will we do now?” said Narendra Pandey, his father.

“We got him married on May 24 last year. My daughter-in-law Aarti has been mostly living with her parents in Ghazipur, UP since marriage since she’s completing her BSc third year. Just recently we rented a third-floor room for them, because she was to move back home and live here. Now the room is in disarray and everything seems lost. All through his life, my wife never left him alone for long durations and now he’s gone, completely alone,” he said.

At Kumar’s household, his family recalled his passion for joining the army.

“He had just sat for the exam for the sepoy rank about 10-15 days back, and was keen on going to Vaishno Devi to pray that he clears it. We are in such shock and pain, that we haven’t even told my wife that he’s no more. She already suffers from kidney infection and nerve damage; she won’t be able to take it,” said Chand.

His daughter Geetanjali, 19, said she had last spoken to her brother at around 6:30 pm. “At that time he was just starting the chadhayi (climb) and told me that he would video call me once he reaches there. But I never received that call. I was worried but thought it could be a network issue. We tried again early in the morning but in vain. I knew something was wrong but I never thought this would happen. This negligence on part of the government and we have suffered. My brother will never come back now,” she said.

Pandey, meanwhile, said no amount of compensation could bring back his son, but added that the government should do its duty. “We are a poor family, and he was the breadwinner. I’ve been staying unwell; I don’t know how long I can keep working. We don’t want any such untoward incident like this to happen again. The government should ensure this,” he said.

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