The daughter of Col. Munindra Nath Rai, who died fighting terrorists in Kashmir on January 27, paid an incredibly moving tribute to her father at the guard of honour accorded to him at the crematorium complex in Brar Square in Delhi Cantonment. Alka Rai, with tears streaming down her face, shouted the Gorkha war cry of her father's 9 Gorkha Rifles before breaking down completely and had to be led away.
At the solemn ceremony attended by the Army's top brass, six-year-old Aditya, the son of Rai, touched his father's feet for the last time, NDTV reported, while his mother was almost unable to stand as she tried to shower her husband's body with petals.
Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag, Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt. Gen. Philip Campose and other senior officers paid floral tributes to Col. Rai who was awarded a Yudh Seva Medal on Republic Day this year, a day before he was killed.
The army chief was also seen condoling Col. Rai's family. He is survived by his wife and three children who were present at the cremation ground, bidding him a tearful adieu. The Army Chief had Wednesday lauded the officer, saying he set an example of good leadership.
"He was a very brave officer... It is an example of leadership that the moment he got information about two terrorists in that area, he immediately went in with his team and some other people," Suhag had said.
Col. Rai belonged to the 9 Gorkha Rifles, seconded to the Rashtriya Rifles. He was commanding his soldiers in the encounter with the militants in Pulwama district of Kashmir when he was killed. Army officials said Col. Rai was approached by the father and brother of one of the guerrillas with an offer of surrender. While Rai was hearing them out, the terrorists burst onto the scene firing indiscriminately.
The slain militants were identified as Abid Ahmad Khan and Shiraz Ahmad Dar of Hizbul Mujaheedin. Head Constable Sanjeevan Singh of the Jammu and Kashmir Police also died in Tuesday's gunfight.
(With inputs from IANS)