Captain Pawan Kumar, of 9 Para Special Forces of the Indian army, studied for his under-graduation at Jawaharlal Nehru University. A Jat from Jind district of Haryana, Kumar died in his early twenties while fighting militants in Sempora area of Pampore on the outskirts of Srinagar on Saturday evening.
According to Army officers who worked with him, Kumar loved riding bikes, vintage cars, and clicking pictures in remote areas. It is ironic that the man whose life was shaped by two places — JNU and Jind are mired in controversy these days. Kumar tried to downplay their influence on him in his sarcastic best, recently in a Facebook status:
"Kisiko reservation chahiye to kisiki ko azadi bhai. Humein kutch nahin chahiye bhai. Bas apni razai." (Some want reservation and some want independence. I do not want anything, except my blanket.)
Kumar was the only child of his parents. Rajbir Singh, his father, said in a chocked voice on Sunday that he is proud of his son's achievement, “I had only one child. I gave him to the Army, to the nation. No father can be prouder.”
The Army officials said on Sunday that Kumar was head of a Para Special Force team that stormed the building in Pampore to flush out militants holed inside. The militants first attacked a Central Reserve Police Force convoy coming towards Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, at around 3.45 pm on Saturday.
After killing two CRPF jawans, the militants sneaked into the Jammu and Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development Institute (JKEDI) complex in Pampore town located on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway. Like every young officer, he led from the front and stormed the building in wee hours of Sunday but the operation failed.
Kumar was born on 15 January, 1993. He has served less then three years in the Army. When the militants stormed the EDI complex on Saturday, they directed employees towards the exit gate and closed its doors. In the ensuing firing, a poor gardener also lost his life.
Roop Kumar Singh, Kumar’s friend, told Firstpost from Jind on phone that his friend rarely talked, “but whenever he did, he would made others burst into laughter.”
“The courage shown by his father is exemplary. Despite losing a young and only son, he hardly cried and is proud of his sacrifice. It is frightening because one should let out the sorrow, but he has kept to himself. His courage is remarkable,” he said.
An army officer said in Srinagar that Captain Kumar had refused to go on sick leave to take part in the operation and led from the front. He had recently participated in the 15 February Pulwama encounter in which two militants were killed.
“Pawan Kumar was a young and a dynamic officer, He was a true commander”, Lt. Gen. SK Dua, General Officer Commanding of Srinagar-based 15 Corps, said.
On Sunday afternoon when the black smoke billowed out from one of the whitewashed buildings of EDI, news trickled in that another Para Capitan, Tushar Mahajan, has been killed, after being hit by a volley of bullets during the mopping-up operation.
Majahan, 24, a resident of Udhampur district of Jammu, was killed along with Lance Naik Om Prakash in the operation which has been a black day for the Indian army in Kashmir. Tushar is son of Prof Dev Raj, a retired Principal and Lecturer of Physics in Udhampur. Before getting selected for National Defence Academy training in 2010, he had completed his schooling from Little Flowers School, KV and APS Udhampur. Tushar was a bachelor and his only brother works abroad.
“He had joined the army against the wishes of his mother and father; they wanted him to be an engineer like his elder brother, but he followed his passion,” one of Tushar’s school friend in Udhampur told Firstpost.
Abdul Gani Mir, a resident of Pinglina village of Pulwama, who also died on the first day of the encounter, worked in JKEDI as a gardener. He fell to the bullets when the firing started on Saturday and the forces started evacuating the trapped employees.
The story of Mir is no less tragic. His brother-in-law, Mohammad Maqbool, a policemen, was killed by militants in 2013. The family of Maqbool was now dependent on Mir along with two daughters and minor son. With nobody to take care of Maqbool’s family, his widow and kids moved to Mir’s place. Mir had his own family to sustain – two grown up daughters already in college and a minor son.
“Who will take care of such a big family now. Did they not think of that before killing you,” Mariyam, the daughter of Mir, shouted as his coffin was being carried out for funeral prayers.
The encounter meanwhile continues even after three days between security forces and militants. Intermittent exchange of fire again started on Monday morning.
So far, six people, including two captains and soldier of Para, two paramilitary troops of the CRPF and a civilians have been killed in the gunfight.