Kin of martyrs of Mumbai attacks honoured in capital

December 15th, 2008 - 9:46 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 15 (IANS) At least a thousand people paid their homage to the martyrs of the November 26 Mumbai terror strikes in a touching ceremony at the Pragati Maidan in the capital Monday. Families of 18 victims, all members of the armed forces, were given Rs.600,000 each, along with a citation by the Patanjali Yogpeeth Trust led by yoga guru Ramdev, his disciples and several political heavyweights.

While Patanjali Yogpeeth donated Rs.500,000 as ex-gratia to the victims’ kin, Suresh Goel, chairman of Zee 24 Ghante of Chhattisgarh, gave Rs.100,000 from his personal account.

The ceremony reflected the spirit of nationalism that has been sweeping through the country post 26/11. The invitees, a mix of senior Congress politicians, workers and businessmen from across the country, carried national flags and the stadium was decked up with billboards proclaiming “We salute the martyrs of the nation”.

Slogans against terrorism rent the air.

It began with Vedic funeral rites as family members of the victims lit ceremonial fires and priests chanted Vedic scriptures to pray for the souls of the martyrs and peace.

It was presided by yoga guru Ramdev and members of his congregation. Ramdev consoled the bereaved as they wept inconsolably.

Later, as the families of the martyrs were invited to share their loss with the people, most of them broke down.

“I can’t speak fluent Hindi, but I will try,” said K. Unnikrishnan, his voice breaking midway as he struggled for words.

A tired Unnikrishnan, accompanied by wife C. Dhanalakshmi, lost their son Sandeep Unnikrishnan, a National Security Guards Major, to terrorist bullets.

The NSG Major died battling gunmen inside the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel in Mumbai during the Black Tornado Operation.

“I feel Sandeep is just back from an operation and he is sitting here with us,” Unnikrishnan said.

Young Divya Salaskar and mother Smita Salaskar lost the family’s bastion of strength, encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar, who was killed Nov 27 outside the Metro cinema theatre.

An officer of the 1983 batch, Salaskar had eliminated many underworld dons and had unearthed several crime rings. After his death, wife Smita took to bed. Daughter Divya was the pillar of strength.

“The day is still etched in my memory. My dad came home early from work, ate his dinner and hurried out saying he was on duty. After sometime, the news of his death flashed on television. It is great personal loss for me and my mother,” Divya said as tears trickled down on her cheeks.

Indian Police Service officer Hemant Karkare was shot three times in the chest as he led his men at the Taj Mahal Hotel to free it of terrorists. For wife Kavita, the blow is irreparable. She has retreated into a shell of silence; daughter Juhi speaks on her behalf.

“I cannot speak in Hindi properly, so allow me to speak in English,” the quiet teenager clad in a blue salwar-kameez said. “We must all have the strength to fight terrorism so that souls of the martyrs can rest in peace. My loss cannot be expressed in words, but I thank the country for the support,” Juhi Karkare said.

In his keynote address, guru Ramdev stressed the futility of terror strikes, saying terrorists were not only a threat to India, but to Pakistan as well.

“When the Indian Airlines flight was hijacked to Kandahar in 1999, India released a dreaded terror mastermind to secure the freedom of the hostages. This time, the country must make it a point not to let the terrorists off the hook. India should act immediately to dismantle terror camps across its borders,” Ramdev said.

Ramdev said he had decided to host the memorial service and honour the martyrs in Delhi so that the voices of those affected could reach the corridors of power.

“If a politician’s kin had taken a bullet in his head, the terrorist camps would have been immediately destroyed, but because the victims are people like NSG commando Gajendra Singh, Major Unnikrishnan and Karkare, it did not touch those in power,” he said.

The beneficiaries of the ex-gratia included the families of Ashok Kamte (IPS), Arun Chitte, Ambadas Pawar, Balasaheb Bhosale, Bapusaheb Durugade, Jaywant Patil, M. Choudhary, Mukesh B. Jadhav, Prakash P. More, Rahul S. Shinde, Shashank Shinde, Tukaram Gopal Ambole, Vijay Khandekar abd Yogesh Patil.

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