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A martyred hero and his extraordinary parents

March 24, 2008
The home of the Kadams at Padwe village in Maharashtra's Konkan region is isolated. Isolated even for a village where homes are few and far between.

The family is sitting under a tin-roofed shelter. The elders are silent. One of the family's two pet dogs is sitting with the people while the other is ambling around in the sun. Three-year-old Siddhant Kadam, who has been petting and ordering around the dogs for some time, suddenly picks up a handheld videogame console and 'makes a call'. "It is grandfather. He wants to talk to you," he says as he hands over the 'phone' to his grandmother Shubadda. Shubadda 'speaks' on the 'phone' to her husband Shashikant, who is in fact watching the scene from an adjacent room. "Oh, is it?' she asks, and hands over the console to Siddhant telling him that grandfather actually wants to talk to him and not her. Siddhant gets the console back, tells his granddad he will speak later, 'hangs up' and goes to play with the dogs.

Even for a three-year-old this might be deemed unacceptable behaviour by this family where discipline runs in the blood. But not today. Today, the family will go any length to keep little Siddhant distracted. It has not even been a full day since he lit the funeral pyre of his father, Lieutenant Colonel Manish Kadam.

Kadam was killed on March 16 in a counterinsurgency operation in Kashmir's Baramulla district. Kadam and a jawan Pradeep Kumar died of bullet injuries, but not before a dreaded Lashkar-e-Tayiba commander, Hafiz Hamza, was killed. Hamza was active in Kashmir since 1998 and is considered to be the mastermind behind numerous fidayeen attacks in the valley. Intelligence inputs claim he was plotting strikes to coincide with the upcoming elections.

When Kadam's body arrived in a casket draped with the national flag, Siddhant had bawled in front of the casket containing his father's remains, asking him to 'get up and get out of the box'.

Image: Lt Col Manish Kadam's body arrives in his village.
Reportage: Krishnakumar P | Photographs: Sanjay Sawant and Bal Hadapkar

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