"It is a very important day," these were the last words of CRPF Commandant Pramod Kumar after he unfurled the tricolour at the forces' base in Srinagar, minutes before he fell to militants' bullets in the Nowhatta area of the Jammu and Kashmir capital.
44-year-old Kumar, Commanding Officer of the 49th battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force deployed in the Kashmir valley, hoisted the flag between 8:30-8:40 AM and made a speech saying with India clocking 70 years of its freedom, the responsibility on security forces has "increased" and they have to effectively tackle militants and incidents of stone pelting in Jammu and Kashmir.
Just before he ended his speech, Kumar, in a video of the event, is seen looking at his watch as he said "it is an important day", unaware of the fate that awaited him.
The officer who joined the paramilitary in 1998 also read out the names of those personnel of the force who were awarded gallantry medals on the eve of the Independence Day and congratulated them.
Soon after, officials said, the wireless set in the CRPF control room crackled informing it about militants hurling grenades and firing on security forces at four places in downtown Srinagar like Nowhatta Chowk, Gojwara Chowk, Bata Gali and Khaniyar Chowk, as they sought reinforcements.
Kumar, along with a small team of his personal security team, dashed out in a bullet proof vehicle and soon after landed at the incident spot.
"The militants were still firing. Kumar led from the front and was shot grievously on the upper part of his neck," they said.
He was rushed to the 92 Base Hospital of the army in Srinagar where he succumbed to his injuries. A senior CRPF officer who had served with Kumar in the counter-insurgency grid in the north-east earlier said the officer was very "cool but daring."
"We will never know why he said yesterday that it was an important day. May be he had some premonition of the events that unfolded in quick time yesterday," he said.
While Kumar and his men eliminated the two militants, nine other personnel including a state police official were injured in the attack.
Kumar was posted to Srinagar in April 2014 and was recently promoted as a Commandant. He hailed from Patna in Bihar but was living at present in neighbouring Jharkhand's Jamtara district.
He is survived by his wife Neha Tripathi and 7-year-old daughter Aarna. Kumar had been thrice decorated with the CRPF Director General's commendation in 2015, 2014 and 2011. He has earlier served in the Special Protection Group for 3 years.
His last rites were performed on Tuesday with military honours in his native village Mihijam in Jamtara.
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