The family of Naib Subedar Mandip Singh (39) was inconsolable on Thursday as he was laid to rest with full honours at Seel village in Ghanaur sub-division of Patiala.
As his mortal remains reached home wrapped in the tricolor, his mother Shakuntala (65), son Jobanpreet (12) and daughter Mehakpreet (16) put their arms around the coffin. The children kept asking their mother Gurdeep Kaur, why their father had left them.
Mandip Singh, from Medium 3 Regiment (Artillery), was among 20 soldiers of the Indian Army who died in a clash with Chinese troops at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) at Galwan Valley of Ladakh.
The soldier’s son Jobanpreet stood near the coffin with folded hands. He also lit the pyre after his father was given the Guard of Honour. The family bid final goodbye with a salute as people chanted ‘Shaheed Mandip amar rahe’ and ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’. With Covid restrictions in place, many villagers also paid their respects from their rooftops.
“Shahaadat tey maan hai saanu par mere bachheyan da ki kasur si…Mere bachhe baar baar puch re papa kyu chale gaye…mere bachhe hun kadey ni milange apne papa nu…saada da ikko ikk chala gaya…Mere bachheya nu kon pyar karega hun (We are proud of his sacrifice for his country, but what was the fault of my children? They are asking repeatedly why their father left them. They are never going to meet their father again. He was our one and only, he was our everything. Now who will love my children?),” asked Gurdeep Kaur, Mandip’s wife.
Mandip’s father had died a few years back. The family owns 3 bighas of land and it is due to their financial struggles that he had joined the Army. He has three elder sisters and took their responsibility after their father’s death.
His wife told The Indian Express: “Ohna ne sarkar layi bas ikk ginti ban jaana hai par saadi dunia si oh… (For the government he will just become a number in the list of soldiers who died but for us he was our world). His mother is still in shock. People who say that India should got to war with China or Pakistan, please ask the families of the soldiers once. Saade saanh sukke rehende si jadon tak phone ni aanda si (We would always be tense till he would call). Those who say we should have a war, please go to the border and fight. Maybe then someone will understand our pain.”
Gurdeep said that in her last conversation with her husband on June 13, he had told her that they were “moving somewhere ahead” and “phones wouldn’t connect”.
“He did not use the word ‘border’ or speak of any tension at LAC. He just told us that we should not worry. After that, we could never reach him. That day he also spoke to his mother and children. He told me to take care of bebey (mother) and would say that since his father is no more, I should take extra care of his mother and not mind if she says something in anger,” said Gurdeep.
“The children are unable to accept that he will never speak to them again. During the last call on June 13, he told our daughter to study hard and get a good job…,” she added.
Mandip had come home on leave in February and due to the lockdown, he joined back in the first week of May. “Our daughter was insisting that he should come home as she was nervous for her class X exams. He came in February and stayed home for nearly three months. He reported back to duty in Bathinda, then again he was sent to Ladakh. It was almost two years he was posted in Ladakh. Phones would connect with great difficulty…” said Gurdeep.
“I am a postgraduate and now I have to think about my children’s future. He would always tell the children that their mother is an educated woman and she can take care of them. We have very little land, that too is infertile…Now I have to take care of his mother and children. He has died for the country but please, stop all this, we request the PM to put an end to this. If today it is us, tomorrow many more families will be devastated,” she added, crying.
As the Army handed over the tricolor and Mandip’s belongings to his wife, his mother and children could not hold back their tears.
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