Kolkata/Bauria, Feb 16 (IANS) Emotion, anger and wailing by near and dear ones created heart-touching scenes as CRPF head constable Bablu Santra was on Saturday brought home, lifeless, two weeks before a scheduled leave he had applied for to spend time with his family.
A sea of humanity descended near the Santras’ home at West Bauria in West Bengal’s Howrah district to bid farewell to the braveheart, one of the 49 CRPF troopers killed by a suicide bomber in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Thursday.
People carried the tricolour, waved posters condemning Pakistan and brought flower bouquets for Santra.
There was an undeclared shutdown in the entire Chengail administrative block, with shops, markets and offices remaining closed. Many households did not cook even a morsel since the morning.
“Bablu was so close to us. He was a great fighter. All shops and markets have remained closed today in his honour,” said a grief-stricken neighbour, who owns a shop.
A club ground close to Santra’s house had been prepared since Friday night for the ceremonial farewell, as also for his family members, friends, neighbours and others to have a last glimpse of his body that was carried in a slow march by CRPF troopers and personnel from other Central and state forces.
Draped in the tricolour, Santra’s coffin was placed on a makeshift platform as thousands broke into slogans eulogising the martyr, shouting “Vande Mataram” and “Pakistan Murdabad.”
The trooper’s mother, Bonomala Santra, was inconsolable. From Friday night, she had been panicking at the thought of seeing the corpse of her only son.
When the moment of reckoning came after endless hours of wait, she hugged the coffin, bewildered, somewhat oblivious of the thousands of strangers.
“He was a responsible boy. He wanted to do so much for the family,” she said, breaking into shrill cries, as an uncertain future dawned before the family which has lost its sole breadwinner.
Santra’s grief-stricken wife Mita touched her husband’s coffin and did not want to move away.
“He had applied for leave, and would have been home two weeks later. But cruel fate did not let that happen,” said a neighbour.
“Nobody has taken anything except water in the area since the morning. I have not cooked. Most of the households have done away with lunch. We are not in a frame of mind to cook or eat,” said a middle-aged woman, as the bugle played the last post.
The men in uniform accorded Santra a guard of honour and then reversed their arms for a gun salute.
But amid all this, Mita spoke out against bloodshed and war, even as she complained that the security arrangements for the CRPF convoy in Pulwama was “not adequate.”
“War cannot be a solution to the problems. If there is war, lot more jawans will die. If you start a war, more families will lose their dear ones on both sides (of the border),” Mita said in a soft but clear tone.
Earlier, sustained cries of “Vande Mataram,” “Bharat Mata ki Jai” and “Pakistan Murdabad” rent the air as hundreds paid homage to Santra and the other slain CRPF trooper from the state when their bodies reached the city.
Draped in the tricolour, the coffins carrying the mortal remains of Santra and constable Sudip Biswas were flown in to the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport four hours behind schedule after a special air force flight developed snag at the Patna airport.
Union Minister Babul Supriyo, alongside troopers from the CRPF and other security forces, carried the bodies out of the airport, where people carrying the national flag, festoons and posters decrying the killings were waiting since morning to pay their respect to the martyrs.
Wreaths were laid and a guard of honour was given by the CRPF.
Three close relatives of Biswas, who had come all the way from Tehatta in Nadia, broke down on seeing the coffin in which his name was written.
Supriyo, BJP leader Locket Chatterjee and senior officers from the army, navy, air force, CRPF and the local police were among those who laid wreaths and saluted the slain bravehearts.
“Pakistan will have to pay a heavy price for this ghastly act. I am sure that right steps will be taken to teach Pakistan a lesson,” said Supriyo.
A minute’s silence was observed before the bodies were put in trucks for being driven to their homes for the last rites.