MUMBAI: “I’ve lost the mentor who taught me how to survive in the volatile atmosphere of Srinagar,” said Gautam Lahane, a junior buddy of CRPF constable Nitin Rathod who lost his life in the deadliest terrorist attack on Thursday.
Lahane hails from Shara village of Lonar tehsil of Buldana district. He recalls his first encounter with constable Rathod at Srinagar.
“It was two years back. I was transferred from Jharkhand to Srinagar. I was not used to the ill famous stone pelting of the valley. As we were doing patrolling duty, the stone pelting began. Rathod sir realised that I was not carrying the shield and rushed to me. He covered me with his own shield and helped me to move to a safe place. He scolded me a lot but immediately calmed down after learning that that was my first day on duty at Srinagar. He lovingly inquired about my family and hometown which is when we realised that we are from neighbouring villages,” Lahane said.
“He was six years senior to me in service and was stationed in Srinagar for a long time. In the past two years, it had become a habit for me to be with him always. It was only this time that I couldn’t get leave along with him. I came to the village on Feb 5th and he left for duty on Feb 11th. We didn’t know it was the last time that we were meeting when he left for the train that day,” Lahane said.
Lahane also recalled Rathod as a person who had a knack of quickly winning hearts of people from any age group.
“Whenever off duty, he used to inspire children in the village to study, the exercise and do something for the nation. He inspired many to prepare for joining services. He was very popular in his village and his death has left everyone grieving,” Lahane said.
Rathod who joined the forces in 2005, had served in the North East for a long time before being transferred to J&K. He is survived by wife Vandana, two children - 7-year-old daughter Prachi and 9-year-old son Piyush, parents and a younger brother.
“To join the forces was always a dream for Nitin ever since our school days,” said Rathor’s brother in law Ashok Chavan. “Though the family owns a small piece of land measuring about 1.5 acres and farming is the only means of survival, his passion took him to join CRPF after completing his schooling,” Chavan said.
Another CRPF constable who lost his life in the terror attack at Pulwama was Sanjay Rajput whose family hails from Malkapur of Buldana district but was currently staying at the CRPF camp in Hingna area of Nagpur with his wife Sushma and two children aged 13 and 10.
“Rajput would be remembered for his dedication to his duty. He had recently completed 23 years of service in CRPF and promoted to the post of head constable. He was eligible for voluntary retirement. But, he refused to execute the option saying that he wants to serve the nation till he is fit to do so,” recalled one of his neighbours in Nagpur camp.
Sanjay had left home on February 11 to join the duty at Shrinagar.