Nineteen-year-old Roni last spoke to her father Havildar Prasanna Kumar Sahoo on Monday night. A student of Plus Three, she needed money for her studies and Sahoo wired Rs 2000 to her uncle’s bank account.
“Little did I know that it would be the last time I would speak to him. It is a great loss for me and my family but my father’s soul will rest in peace only if the government takes stern action against terrorists,” she added.
Havildar Prasanna Kumar Sahoo, a native of Shikhar village under Jagatsinghpur’s Naugaon tehsil, was one of the 43 CRPF jawans who was killed in the terrorist attack at Pulwama on Thursday.
Last night, the family received a telephone call from Sahoo’s relative Khirod Biswal from Jammu and Kashmir where he is working as a nursing assistant with the Indian Army. His death was confirmed by Naugaon Police and ever since the family has been numbed by the tragedy.
His wife Minarani is inconsolable. “On Monday last, he spoke to me and asked about the marriage of Roni. Little did we know that this will be our last conversation,” she said before breaking down again and again.
Sahoo had completed his Class X at Karualpatana near Konark and Plus Two in Kakatpur College in Puri district. After that, he joined as Havildar in Central Reserve Police Forces in 1992.
The Sahoo family was very poor because they had no agricultural land to maintain their livelihood. He was the only bread-earner for the family.
He is survived by wife Minarani, daughter Roni and son Jagan Sahu who studies at Nimapada College. The havildar’s father Kasinath Sahu had passed away in 2013 while his mother Laita died a year later.
Sahoo’s colleague Sudhir Charan Biswal describe him as a “go-getter” who always wore a smile. He had visited Shikhar in November to make a monetary donation for the establishment of a village temple and attend the 16th birthday of his son. He had promised to return on New Year but non-availability of leave did not allow him the opportunity.
Biswal remembers Sahoo, the actor, who played the role of a hero in plays hosted in his village. “Now he has shown his heroism by sacrificing his life for the nation,” Biswal added.
While a pall of gloom has descended on Shikhar, they remember the genial CRPF jawan as a helpful person who would always come forward to help anyone who approached him. “On many occasions, he gave away monetary help to the poor and also to families who needed financial support for the wedding of their sisters and daughters,” said a villager.
Jagatsinghpur Superintendent of Police Prakash R informed that Havildar Sahu’s mortal remains would reach Bhubaneswar airport late on Friday night. “Police is in touch with the martyr’s family to perform the last rites in his native village with military honours,” he added.
About 90 kilometres away in Cuttack’s Niali, the mood is similar. The ancestral place of CRPF constable Manoj Behera, the small town is mourning its hero. Behera, who attained martyrdom at Pulwama, had returned to J&K a week back after spending a long vacation with his family.
He had celebrated his one-year-old daughter’s birthday on January 16 and left on February 6. He had spoken to his wife Itilata over the phone on Thursday before starting his journey to Srinagar.
Itilata is yet to come to the terms with the tragedy that her husband is no more. She had married Behera in January 2017. Behera is a native of Niali area in Cuttack district and was inducted in the services in 2006.
“He told me he would be leaving for Srinagar and call again after reaching there. As the road was not clear he said they would be late. He also told me to take care of our daughter. But little did I know that it would be his last call,” said an inconsolable Itilata.
His mother Sabitri said he was very happy when he left home after the vacation. “He was very brave. His only aim in life was to fight for the country. I can not believe that he is no more,” she said
while wiping away her tears.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik spoke to the family members of the two jawans over the phone and expressed his deep condolences. Naveen, who described the Pulwama attack as a cowardly act, said he stands by the family members of the martyrs. He also asked Finance Minister Sashi Bhushan Behera and Health Minister Pratap Jena to personally visit the families.
The Odisha government has also announced ex gratia compensation of Rs 10 lakh each for the kin of the martyrs.