24 October 2002


From Jal Khambata

NEW DELHI: The Government no longer takes special interest that it exhibited during the Kargil war to fly back bodies of the military personnel to their villages and cities for the last rites.

When Major Vinod Kumar Rana of Deccan Horse fell to the militants' bullets after killing one of them on the spot in an encounter on October 20 in the course of a counter-insurgency operation, the military found no other way except to hire a private truck to cart his body to his village Bajghera in Gurgaon district (Haryana) off Delhi.

Officers who first tried to see if his body can be flown found no response from the higher-ups and hence the last journey of the hero took three days in a truck bundled like any other goods.

The cremation took place in his home village on Wednesday, of course with the guard of honours given by the soldiers of the President Body Guards and Rajputana Rifles, but 5000 people who had gathered to say "adieu" to "son of the soil" felt sad at the disrespect shown to him by putting his body in a truck. At least, they could have used a military vehicle if not an aircraft, many remarked.

The major was heading a company on patrol as part of the counter-insurgency operations. On detecting some suspicious movements, the area was cordoned off and the major himself led the search party. Cornered, the militants opened fire which were immediately retaliated by Major Vinod, killing one militant. He was, however, wounded in the fierce firefight and later succumbed to injuries. END