Emotions ran high as Colonel Munindra Nath Rai, killed by militants on Tuesday in Kashmir, was laid to rest at the Brar Square cemetery in Delhi Cantonment on Thursday.
Rai's 11-year-old daughter choked up as she shouted her father's regiment's old battle cry, then raised her right hand to salute him for the last time as she burst out in tears. Colonel Rai's wife was inconsolable, while his six-year-old son couldn't probably comprehend the loss.
Alka, Rai's eldest daughter whose war cry led to the Gorkha officers and soldiers repeating it several times over, said she was a proud daughter. "My father was a brave father," Alka said.
The 39-year-old colonel of the 2/9 Gurkha Rifles was killed by militants on Tuesday in Tral, a day after he was honoured for his bravery with a Yudh Seva Medal on Republic Day. He was commanding 42 Rashtriya Rifles battalion in Kashmir Valley.
Day after receiving gallantry medal, Col Munindra Nath Rai killed in J&K gunbattle
Col Rai is survived by his wife Priyanka, and three children.
Col Rai's funeral pyre was lit by his elder brother, Col D N Rai, who too is an officer of the Gurkha Rifles. A second brother, Y N Rai, is with the CRPF, and was among those who sustained injuries when they fought militants during the terrorist attack on Raghunath Temple in 2002.
Army chief General Dalbir Singh, a fellow Gurkha officer, was among those who paid tributes to Col Rai at Brar Square.
A brigadier posted in the Kashmir Valley told TOI that Col Rai was known for leading his men from the front. "After the militants were surrounded by Rai's troops, family of one of them came out of the house to tell Rai that they would surrender. But that was not to be," he said, about what led to the colonel's killing. A Jammu and Kashmir police head constable, Sanjeev Singh, too lost his life in the gun battle.
Y N Rai said probably only a man in uniform would understand how proud he was of his martyred brother. "I am very proud of my brother," he said, talking about the phone calls pouring in from all over the world mourning his brother's death.
Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi wrote to Priyanka Rai, saying, "I know what it is to lose a beloved husband to a terrorist attack, and for children to be robbed of the love and guidance of their father at a young age. You must draw strength from the fact that your husband died fighting terrorism and defending his country till his last breath, and that his supreme sacrifice and martyrdom will always be honoured."