Five bravehearts, five moving tales: Punjab and Himachal prepare to honour Ladakh martyrs
CHANDIGARH: Four soldiers from Punjab and one from Himachal Pradesh are among the army personnel who were martyred in the face off between Indian and Chinese armies at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) at Galwan Valley in Ladakh.
The 22-year old Gurbinder Singh of Tolawal village in Sangrur district of Punjab who was martyred on Monday was to get married soon. He had gotten engaged eight months ago when he came on his last leave.
Gurbinder had joined the army in 2018 after clearing his Class XII exams. As the news of his martyrdom spread the villagers began to arrive at his house.
Gurpreet Singh, his elder brother said, "Today morning, we got a call that Gurbinder has been martyred and his body is likely to reach either tonight or on Thursday. We have not told my mother that her younger son is dead as she was very much attached to him. I spoke to him around three weeks ago and he said that for a few days he will not be able to speak to us as there is no mobile connectivity in the area."
Labh Singh, father of one of the martyrs Gurpreet Singh, was inconsolable and could not give an answer when asked by anybody about his son or when his body would arrive.
"We have got information from authorities that Gurbinder's body would reach on Thursday," said an official.
Another martyr Naib Subedar Mandeep Singh of Seel village in Patiala district had returned to the frontlines only two weeks ago only after being on leave for a month.
The sole breadwinner in his family leaves his wife Gurdeep Kaur, and two children - 17-year-old Mehakpreet and Jobanpreet (12) - and mother Shakuntla and an aunt behind.
His three elder sisters are married and living at Ambala in Haryana and Bahadurgarh near Patiala.
The family was inconsolable on hearing the news of his demise and the villagers were in shock.
"He was a family man, always worried for our safety and used to tell his friends to take care of us back here. He used to regularly call. He was the only breadwinner in the family and had just joined duty two weeks ago after a month's leave," said Shakuntla.
23-year old Gurtej Singh of Birewala Dogra village in Mansa district of Punjab never got to meet his new sister-in-law.
His elder brother got married only about twenty days ago and during his last conversation with his family over the phone, Gurtej had promised that he will come soon to meet his sister-in-law.
His two elder brothers, father Virsa Singh and mother along with other family members are now inconsolable. Gurtej's body is also expected to arrive on Thursday.
Another martyr 45-year-old Naib Subedar Santnam Singh of Bhoj Raj village in Gurdaspur, who had joined the Army in 1995, is survived by his wife Jaswinder Kaur, two children, his parents and by his elder brother Sukhchain Singh, who is also serving in the Army.
Sukchain was barring everyone from meeting his parents. "I have given this devastating news to my parents and they will be in shock if people come to pay their condolences. So, have decided bar entry," he said.
21-year-old Ankush Thakur of Kadohta village in Hamirpur district of Himachal Pradesh, meanwhile was a third-generation soldier.
A sepoy, he made it to the army in 2018 and after completing his training in Faizabad, ten months ago he had joined the Punjab Regiment. His father Anil Thakur and grandfather had also served in the Army.
A wave of mourning swept the entire village as the news reached the family that Ankush has been killed in Monday night's violent clash.
As the information about his martyrdom was given by the army headquarters to the Gram Panchayat Kadohta by phone, the villagers started raising anti-China slogans on their way to share their condolences with the family. Ankush's younger brother is studying in Class VI.
Sources said that the local district administration was in touch with the Army authorities for the martyr's mortal remains, which is expected to reach the village late Wednesday evening. The cremation is likely to take place on Thursday and Ankush will be given a state funeral.
Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh announced an ex-gratia compensation, along with government jobs to the next of kin of the deceased.
One family member each will be given a government job. The families of Naib Subedar Mandeep Singh and Naib Subedar Santnam Singh will be given Rs 12 lakh compensation each as they were married. The families of the two unmarried martyrs, Sepoy Gurtej Singh and Sepoy Gurbinder Singh, will be give Rs 10 lakh each as compensation (Rs 5 lakh as ex-gratia and Rs 5 lakh in lieu of land). Gurbinder belonged to the 3 Punjab regiment.
"The loss suffered by the families was immeasurable and could not be compensated with material things, but the compensation and the jobs would help alleviate some of their sufferings," said Amarinder.
He said cabinet ministers would represent the state government at the martyrs' funerals, which will be held with full Army honours in their native villages.
He directed the respective district administrations to make all arrangements befitting the occasion.