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INDIA PAYS TRIBUTE TO ITS HEROES

INDIA PAYS TRIBUTE TO ITS HEROES

‘He had always wanted to die a hero’s death’
GAJENDRA SINGH BISHT
1972 – 2008
THE tiny village of Ganeshpur turned out in full strength to bid adieu to its hero, Havaldar Gajendra Singh Bisht (36), the National Security Guards (NSG) commando who died fighting terrorists in Mumbai.
Havaldar Gajendra’s mortal remains were consigned to the flames with full military honours on Saturday afternoon with more than a thousand people from Ganeshpur and its adjoining villages participating in the funeral.
“He had always wanted to be in the forces and had always wanted to die like a hero. And that is precisely what happened,” said his brother, Birender Singh Bisht, an official in the Uttarakhand Police. Amongst those present to pay their respects to the martyr was his teacher from Janata Inter College in Naya Gaon Subhash Chand Jasola. “He had studied in the college from 1980 to 1990. I cannot forget his interest in sports, particularly boxing. He was a disciplined student and participated in every event organised in the school, be it sports or cultural activities,” said Jasola, who teaches English at the college. He said that Havaldar Gajendra is the third student from the college to have died for the country in military operations. Earlier, two of his former students had died during the Kargil operations. Havaldar Gajendra had also participated in the Kargil operations.
The college was shut for the day in honour of Havaldar Gajendra’s sacrifice and the entire staff and students had turned up for his funeral.
“I met him last in August when our father Late Daulat Singh had died. Thereafter, we had been in touch on phone,” said his brother. He said Gajendra joined the Garhwal Rifles in 1991 and then chose to be part of the 10 Para (Special Force). Thereafter, he had opted to be a NSG commando. He was based in Delhi when he was asked to be part of Mumbai operation.
“After having dinner on November 26, he got a call from his office saying that an alert has been sounded. He had left the house carrying bare essentials, telling me that he would be back in a while. It was a couple of hours later that we were told that he had been sent to Mumbai,” said his wife Vineeta Devi (31). She said her husband wanted their daughter Preeti (10) to be an air hostess and son Gaurav (12) to be an Army officer. “I wonder where we are faltering in dealing with terrorism. We have the best of forces and technology. We need to ponder why innocents are losing their lives while those compromising with their duties are making millions,” said the deceased’s maternal uncle Dr Hoshiar Singh Negi.
Uttarakhand Governor B.L. Joshi, Chief Minister B.C. Khanduri and IMA Commandant Lt Gen R.S. Sujlana paid a visit to Havaldar Gajendra’s house to offer their condolences to his family.
In his address, Joshi said, “As the Governor of the state, I am proud of the supreme sacrifice made by Havaldar Gajendra. At the same time, I am also very sad at his untimely death. The whole nation is with his family at this hour of grief.” Khanduri announced an immediate aid of Rs 5 lakh to the family of Havaldar Ganjendra.
_Rajeev Khanna, Dehradun, November 29

‘He was a rare combination of humility and high thinking’
HEMANT KARKARE
1954 – 2008
Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief Hemant Karkare, killed leading the battle against terrorists in Mumbai, was given a state funeral on Saturday. Top policemen, including Mumbai police commissioner Hassan Gafoor attended the funeral, paying their last respects to the slain hero. Chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and deputy CM R.R. Patil too were present at the funeral in Shivaji Park.
Karkare, 54, a 1982 batch Indian Police Service (IPS) officer had been in the spotlight for leading the investigation into the Malegaon blasts. On Wednesday night, Karkare, along with encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar and additional commissioner Ashok Kamte, had led the counter-attack from the front at the Cama and Albless Hospital. They were wearing helmets and bullet-proof jackets but were killed in the heavy terrorist firing.
Karkare’s funeral started at 9.30 on Saturday morning after his body was brought to his Dadar house from Sion Hospital. His body was taken in a flower bedecked open van from his home in Hindu Colony in Dadar East to the Shivaji Park crematorium. Former police officers including Ashok Malhotra, Julio Reberio, D S Soman, were in full attendance.
Hundreds lined the 3-km stretch to pay tributes to the martyr as a police band played on. People from across the state and all communities gathered to pay their respects and offer condolences to the family.
State Intelligence chief D. Sivanandan who was present at the funeral said he had known Karkare for the last 26 years and seen him through his stint from his crime branch and anti-narcotics days to his becoming SP in the Naxal hit Chandrapur district in Maharashtra. “He was six years my junior and I still remember the IC/814 Kandahar plane hijack investigation which we did together. He was a very simple but sincere and dedicated officer,” he said.
When asked about the pressure on Karkare from Hindu groups for his investigation into the Malegaon blasts, Sivanandan said, “He did his job and stood like a mountain. He was a rare example of humility with high thinking and excellent execution of work.” The ATS comes under the SID and Sivanandan said his department had extended full support to Karkare.
Karkare had taken over the ATS in January after a he completed his tenure as the joint commissioner of police for administration and a seven-year stint with India’s external intelligence agency Research & Analysis Wing (RAW).
He is survived by his wife Kavita, son Akash and daughters Jui and Sayli.
_SMITA NAIR, MUMBAI, NOVEMBER 29

Bangalore bids tearful adieu to Major Sandeep
SANDEEP UNNIKRISHNAN
1977 – 2008
“He was one of the finest men I have met. I guess God requires the finest, that’s why we had to lose him,” NSG commando Sarvesh Sharma said, choking with tears, as he waited to collect the last remains of his best friend and officer Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan (31) at the Hebbal crematorium in Bangalore on Saturday evening.
Sharma was part of an NSG team that came to Bangalore with the body of Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan. When Sandeep’s body was brought to his residence and taken to the crematorium, hundreds of people, including school children, gathered to catch a glimpse of the soldier on his last journey.
At his home, while his mother Dhanalakshmi clung on to her son’s body, dignitaries like the Karnataka Chief Minister, former ISRO chairman K. Kasturirangan and the state police paid their last respects.
Posters declaring Major Unnikrishnan a martyr adorned the highway.
With activists of the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike, a pro-Kannada group, hijacking the crematorium with slogan shouting against Pakistan and cheers for the martyr, much of the somberness that Sandeep’s friends and family had wished for was lost. Colonel C.E. Fernandes, Commanding Officer of the seventh Bihar Regiment from where Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan was deployed, was among those who could not witness the cremation as the KRV activists thronged the crematorium. He described Sandeep’s distinguishing quality as his honesty. “He always worked in the framework of the rules,” he said. However, he expressed anguish at the hijacking of the funeral. “Instead of shouting slogans, we would be glad if more people like Sandeep led from the front,” he said.
While Sandeep’s NSG colleagues who came with his body said they did not know how exactly the officer was killed, the DIG of NSG L Mohanty said Sandeep was leading a taskforce at the Taj Mahal Hotel to free the civilian hostages. He was killed when he took a bullet while trying to save an injured colleague, the DIG said.
“Sandeep qualified to be a part of the NSG because he was mentally and physically fit for the job. His two-year term was due to end around January,” said Col Srikumar, a recently retired Bihar Regiment officer and among Sandeep’s first bosses.
A music teacher from Sandeep’s school, V Narayanswamy, described him as a “a pleasant boy who always had a crew cut even in school”.
A young 19-year-old cousin of the deceased officer, Mrinal, who had arrived from Kozhikode in Kerala, said Sandeep was an idol and a father figure to him. “When he came to Kozhikode he would behave like all of us kids—playing pranks on elders or playing games with us,” he said.
NSG colleague and friend Sarvesh Sharma said, “He was looking forward to a new house which the Army was allotting to him. He was also looking forward to the NSG’s Raising Day and was keen on buying a suit for the occasion. He said he did not have enough money and would wait till December 1, when his salary would come. December 1 will never come for him now.”
Johnson TA, Bangalore, November 29

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First published on: 30-11-2008 at 12:48:41 pm
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