GUWAHATI: It was love for the uniform that drove Suman Swargiary and Khatnei Konyak to join the Assam Rifles.
Swargiary, a native of Thekarakuchi in Assam’s Baksa district, and Konyak, who hailed from Zangkham in Nagaland’s Mon district, were among the five personnel who had lost their lives in Saturday’s deadly ambush on an Assam Rifles convoy in Manipur’s Churachandpur.
Their last rites were performed on Monday in their villages in the presence of hundreds of mourners. Both grew up seeing defence personnel.
Tragedy had struck Swargiary back in 2008 when his father had lost his life at the hands of the militants. Thekarakuchi has only around 150 households but some 50 persons from the nondescript village are serving in the armed forces.
“After the militants had swooped down on their house and killed his father, it suddenly fell upon Suman to run the family. He appeared in an interview and secured the job in 2011,” Uday Basumatary, a relative, told this newspaper.
Swargiary’s father headed a peace committee when the militants cut short his life. The region was then going through the worst days of the insurgency. Baksa falls under Bodoland Territorial Region and is administered by the autonomous Bodoland Territorial Council.
Basumatary said he was not surprised when 10 years ago his nephew had left home to take part in a recruitment drive for entry into the Assam Rifles.
“There are so many of them from the village working in the armed and paramilitary forces. He grew up seeing them in the uniform. He was a dedicated soldier,” Basumatary said.
Last week, the slain soldier had promised his son that he would come home to celebrate the child’s third birthday. He left behind his wife, son and two sisters, one of them unmarried.
Basumatary appealed to the government to take measures to solve the problem of insurgency in the Northeast.
“We don’t have the militants in Assam now. Several other states in the region are peaceful. The central government should take some steps to solve the problem in Manipur and Nagaland,” he insisted.
Konyak had got married only last year. His elder brother, who too is an Assam Rifles soldier, said it was his sibling’s dream to serve in the armed forces.
“More than 35 people from our village are serving in the central and state forces. He always aspired to become a soldier,” the brother said.
Mon District Magistrate, Thavaseelan K told The New Indian Express, “Zangkham is a small and backward village. It has a lot of people serving in the state and central forces.”