The Independence Day celebrations at Srinagar’s CRPF 49 battalion this year was overshadowed by grief. Thirty-two-year-old Neha Tripathi, her little daughter by her side, was unfurling the flag. Last year, it was her husband, Commandant Pramod Kumar, who performed the same task. Within a couple of hours, he was dead. Today’s ceremony was as much a tribute to the officer as to India on her 71st Independence Day.
As news came of a patrol being attacked at Nowhatta in downtown Srinagar, the Commanding Officer of the unit had picked up his AK-47 rifle and rushed to the site at Nowhatta. After nearly five hours of gun-battle, Commandant Kumar was dead and nine other securitymen injured. Before he died, the officer — who had sustained a bullet injury in his head — and his men managed to kill two of the terrorists. This year, the officer was posthumously honoured with Kirti Chakra, India’s third highest gallantry award. “It was very difficult for me to come to the same place where he was martyred. But I came here to be a part of the tribute ceremony by the jawans of 49 battalion for my husband,” said Neha Tripathy, clutching the hand of six-year-old Aarna.