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June 6, 1999
'My son has accomplished what I could not'
"My son has accomplished what I could not. I am really proud of him," was the immediate reaction of Lieutenant Colonel (retired) P K P Viswanatha Panickar when he heard about the death of his son, Captain Pannikot Visvanath Vikram, 25, in a shell attack at Kargil yesterday.
In a family where military tradition runs in the blood there were no ostentatious signs of grief. "I participated in two wars against Pakistan, but I could not sacrifice my life for the country. He has sacrificed his life for the nation. I have no regrets," the colonel commented stoically. In his service days he himself had a stint at Kargil.
Lt Colonel Panickar, who works in Bangalore, reached Kozhikode on learning about the death of his eldest son.
To the hundreds who gathered at his home to offer condolences, he voiced the same matter-of-fact refrain, "a soldier should always be prepared to die in the battlefield.''
Growing up among soldiers, Vikram had set his eyes on the army in school itself. He had managed a 'C' certificate as a NCC cadet.
After graduation he followed his father to the Indian Military Academy at Dehradun. Passing out from the Academy in June 1996, he was commissioned in the Madhya Pradesh-based 141 Field Regiment, again his father's regiment.
Vikram came down to Kozhikode on leave in April. The last time the family spoke to the captain was on May 4, when he called home.
Vikram's mother is the principal of the Vidyatmika School at Kozhikode, while his younger brother, P V Keshav, is a third-year student at the dental college in Kozhikode.
His body was cremated on Sunday within the premises of his house at Panniyankara near Kozhikode. State minister K Radhakrishnan represented the state government at the funeral.
At another home in another town in Kerala, cruel fate had struck. The father of Lt Colonel Vishwanathan, another officer to die in the Kargil operation, put on a brave face, despite his grief.
"We grieve the loss of our son. But we are also proud he has dedicated his life to the nation," said V Ramakrishnan, 60.
Anjali, Lt Colonel Vishwanathan's child, was seated on his lap with a distant look in her eyes. It is difficult to tell if the girl has fully understood what has happened though she is certain that something is amiss.
Lt Colonel Vishwanathan, 39, should have been at home if the Kargil operation had not taken place.
He had planned to reach Kochi on June 4 to take his wife and two children back to his base on June 21. Lt Colonel Vishwanathan, who did his schooling at Kochi, was commissioned in 1981 after completing his training at the National Defence Academy, Khadakvasla, and the IMA, Dehradun.
He had served with the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka and later with the UN Peacekeeping Force in Angola. A classmate, Captain Srikumar said Viswanathan was a ''very dedicated person prepared to take any risk.''
The Kerala government has sanctioned Rs 500,000 each to the families of the two officers.
Chief Minister E K Nayanar said one member each from the two families would be given a government job.
Lt Colonel Vishwanathan's mortal remains were consigned to the flames at his native village Eroor, on Sunday afternoon with full state honours.
A large number of people, including Kerala Cultural Affairs Minister T K Ramakrishsnan, were present at the funeral. Vishwanathan's brother Venkatesh performed the last rites.
Earlier, when the body arrived from New Delhi by an Indian Airlines flight, it was received by Ramakrishnan on behalf of the state government, representatives of the army and navy and the district authorities ceremoniously. The body was kept for an hour at the statue junction at Thripunithura to enable the public to pay homage before being taken to his village.
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