Thousands pay tribute as slain NSG major cremated in Bangalore (Lead)

November 29th, 2008 - 4:48 pm ICT by IANS  

ISROBangalore, Nov 29 (IANS) As thousands chanted “Major Sandeep amar rahe”, the body of National Security Guard (NSG) commando Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, who was killed in a firefight with terrorists inside the Taj hotel in Mumbai, was consigned to the flames here Saturday.Only Sandeep’s grieving parents and other family members and military personnel were allowed inside the electric crematorium at Hebbal, about 15 km from the city centre, where several thousand people, young and elderly, had gathered for the final farewell to the 31-year-old army officer.

Sandeep’s parents, father K. Unnikrishnan and mother Dhanalakshmi, were given the military uniform of the slain officer, their only son who had spoken to them for the last time on Nov 26, a day before he led his team to clear Mumbai’s iconic hotel of the terrorists.

K. Unnikrishnan, a retired Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) official, Dhanalakshmi and their relatives broke down as the armymen sounded the last post and the body was moved into the furnace after religious rituals.

Hundreds of people had lined the nearly four-km route to the crematorium from Unnikrishnans’ residence at Yelahanka, around 12 km from the city. The body was taken in an open army truck followed by hundreds of mourners.

Earlier, at the residence, students in school uniform, young and elderly men and women in hundreds waited for hours to file past the body draped in white. Most of the mourners bowed in respect while many gave a military salute to the slain officer.

“Major Sandeep amar rahe”, “Bharat Mata ki Jai” slogans rent the air at the residence as well as along the route to the crematorium.

Chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, several of his ministers, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) general secretary and Lok Sabha member H.N. Ananth Kumar were among those who laid wreaths on the body.

The slain officer’s mother Dhanalakshmi was inconsolable. She was reluctant to let go of the body. On her insistence, she was allowed to sit next to the body for a few minutes just before it was taken on the last journey.

She swooned as the Karnataka police band sounded the bugle after a police gun salute, marking the beginning of the march from their residence to the crematorium.

She was given medical aid as relatives consoled her.

The body of Major Unnikrishnan was brought to Bangalore late Friday night from Mumbai and kept at his Yelahanka residence for people to pay their last respects.

Sandeep led his men into Taj Thursday. During the gunbattle he was separated from his men but continued taking on the terrorists, according to NSG Director General J.K. Dutt.

To prevent his colleagues from getting caught in the crossfire, Sandeep told them to keep away. He was grievously injured and died Friday.

His parents hail from Kerala but Sandeep was born and brought up in Bangalore.

“I lost my son in Mumbai Friday but we are proud that he has served the country well,” the father told reporters Friday night.

Unnikrishnan said Sandeep had called them on Nov 26 to inform that he would be coming home early next month as his friend was getting married on Dec 17.

The March 17, 1977, born Sandeep had his schooling from Frank Anthony Public School in Bangalore. After passing out of the National Defence Academy, he was commissioned in the 7th Battalion of Bihar Regiment in 1999. He was deputed to NSG in January 2007.

A friend of Sandeep, Major Deepu, said: “He was a very enthusiastic person. He has been in Jammu and Kashmir, so he was trained in combat and anti-terrorism operations.”

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