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Mainstream, VOL LIII , No 38, New Delhi, September 12, 2015

A martyr is born . . .

Sunday 20 September 2015

His name was Abhijit, the conqueror of the foe. And he has conquered death, for by giving his very life, he shall be remembered so long as the beauty of Kashmir shall endure, so long as patriotism shall be cherished as an abiding virtue.

When Abhijit joined the Army in October 1963, it was not just the end of the quest for a career: for him it was exclusively a call of the motherland. The old father, the veteran of many a battle against the British rule, had himself offered to fight for the defence of the sacred soil when the Chinese invaded in October 1962. One year later, it was the son who got the Emergency Commission in the Army after his graduation from Ashutosh College in Calcutta.

And soon as he was marked out for his bravery and sturdy fighting mettle. He led a sixteen-man party of the 4th Rajput Regiment through a very difficult terrain, against all odds and great risk to his life, and found himself in the group of the brave that had captured the Kargil post in May-June. To a newsman who had pointed to the toll taken by the enemy in that daring operation, Abhijit’s remark was typical of him: “It was worth all the blood and toil.”

A Captain in Abhijit’s regiment confessed in a letter to the old bereaving father: “He could surpass all of us in his will to defend the motherland.” Even in the bitter height of Chusul, the 22-year old Second Lieutenant was never lacking in the finest spirit that only the purest gem of patriotism could bring out. And when he breathed his last amidst the enchanting beauty of the rain-drenched Vale of Kashmir, his warm bhlood soaked the mother earth, sanctified by the noble crusade in which a son of Bengal gave his life in defence of the land where his brother Kashmiris live.

Service to motherland was an in-born trait in Abhijit, for his father and mother have both suffered in the freedom struggle. Haripada Chattopadhyay has himself been a soldier in the nation’s struggle against British rule. Today as he wistfully recalls the years of storm and stress—in the midst of which his only child Abhi was born—he cannot but help saying that he could do little that a father would be expected to do for his son. While the handsome baby was only one month old, Haripada Babu, the militant worker in coarse Khadi had gone to prison, and when the prison door opened after years, he could hardly restrain his filial emotions when a little boy called him out as “Baba”.

“I have no complaint against anybody as I had myself encouraged my son to join the Army,” said the old father with a sense of pride tinged with unbelievably stoic fortitude. The struggle-tossed life, reflected in the wrinkles of an old soldier, has never known fear not creature comforts. And today his only prayer is that he may live to look after his eight-month old grandson—his Abhi’s son—and do for him what he could not do for his son who is no more. Sorrow has not broken his spirit as one sees him engaged in his work as a very active Member of Parliament.

Javanti, the young wife Abhijit left behind, has borne the shock with equal courage. Only in January last year, the happy wedding had taken place, and she lived with him for only a couple of months at Etawah before he was sent to the High Himalayas. The last she had seen him was when he came down to New Delhi on a ten-day visit in July: it was then that Abhijit promised to take her soon to Srinagar.

The last thing she got from him was a letter dated August 19 written “from the place you wanted to visit with me”. And on the same night, he fell. The promised trip to Srinagar shall never come true.

But the broken heart is not in the least demonstrative. As the worthy wife of a true soldier, she shows no tears as she proudly speaks of her Abhijit’s deeds of valour. For her, Abhijit lives on in her eight-year old Jayajit, a name that takes from both the father and the mother.

Out of this torturing sorrow of a selfless family is born a martyr of whom the nation shall ever be proud.

—A.C.