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“Jai Hind Papa.” A stoic six-year-old Kabir dressed in Army-style fatigues saluted his father one last time before Colonel Manpreet Singh, killed in the gunfight with terrorists in Kashmir Valley, was cremated at his village in Punjab’s Mohali District today.

In Haryana’s Panipat, a bugler sounded the ‘Last Post’ for Major Ashish Dhonchak who was killed in the same encounter as thousands of mourners joined the grieving family for his final journey. The mortal remains of the Army Major reached his native Binjhol Village in an Army vehicle where the last rites were conducted after a wreath-laying ceremony and a gun-salute.

The mood was sombre in Bharaunjian Village near Mohali where Colonel Singh’s house witnessed a steady stream of mourners since early morning who joined his inconsolable wife, mother and other family members in his final journey.

An Army officer was seen holding Kabir as the family and others paid their last respects while a relative held on to his two-year-old daughter Banni.

Kabir was later seen clinging to the Tricolour-wrapped coffin of his father along with other family members. He bowed before his father’s body just before cremation as “Bharat Mata ke Sapoot Ki Jai” and “Bharat Mata ki Jai” slogans rent the air.

The cremation took place with full military honours, including a wreath laying ceremony and a gun-salute. Carried by his uncle, Kabir lit the funeral pyre as villagers raised slogans ‘Bharatiya Sena Zindabad’ and ‘Hindustan Zindabad’. Some people shouted anti-Pakistan slogans after the cremation.

Punjab Governor Banwarilal Purohit, former Army chief V.P. Malik and Punjab ministers Chetan Singh Jouramajra and Anmol Gagan Maan as well as senior Army and police officers were present at Bharaunjian and laid wreaths. Lt Gen. D.P. Vats (Retd), a Bhartiya Janta Party leader, was also present.

Purohit and Anmol Maan were seen consoling the family members of Colonel Singh. Former Army chief Gen. V.P. Malik, while speaking to reporters after the cremation, said, “It’s a very sad occasion. Both the officers, Manpreet and Ashish, were from my regiment. It’s a big loss for the regiment and Army.” “We hope that people who have carried out these things they will be sorted out soon,” former Army chief said.

In the morning, Colonel Singh’s mother was seen wailing as she waited at the doorsteps for her son’s mortal remains. Singh (41) was a third-generation soldier. His grandfather Sita Singh and father Lakhbir Singh have served in the Army. Some of the school teachers of Colonel Singh also turned up at the funeral. “He was a gem for us. He was a gem for the nation,” said teary-eyed teachers, adding, “He had said he would come in December”.

Asha Chadha, a teacher of Colonel Singh in Class 1, described him as an extraordinary student. “We are very sad today but at the same time proud that we are teachers of a martyr who sacrificed his life for the nation.” The Army officer, a Sena medal awardee, leaves behind two children, wife Jagmeet Kaur, a Government School teacher in Haryana’s Panchkula district, mother Manjeet Kaur and brother Sandeep.

Colonel Singh did his schooling from Mullanpur before graduating in Commerce Stream from a college in Chandigarh. He later cleared the Combined Defence Services’ examination and joined Indian Military Academy.

Heart-rending scenes were witnessed at the residence of Major Ashish Dhonchak in Panipat, as his mother Kamla hugged the coffin of her son sobbing uncontrollably She said said that Major Dhonchak was supposed to come home next month on a holiday, during which, the family was to shift to a new house. The mortal remains of Army Major were taken to the room where he used to stay during vacations before being marched for the final journey to the crematorium.

Col Singh, the Commanding Officer of 19 Rashtriya Rifles, Maj. Dhonchak, Deputy Superintendent of Jammu and Kashmir Police Humayun Bhat and a soldier were also killed in an encounter with terrorists in Garol Area of Anantnag District.

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