An Indian Army colonel, a major and a lance naik killed in a firefight in Kashmir were cremated Tuesday at moving funeral ceremonies, after their bodies were brought home in coffins wrapped in the tricolour.
The body of Colonel Ashutosh Sharma, the commanding officer of 21 Rashtriya Rifles who was killed Saturday night, was consigned to the flames in Jaipur. Major Anuj Sood was cremated will full military honours in Chandigarh.
Lance Naik Dinesh Singh's last rites were held at Rameshwar ghat in Uttarakhand's Almora, attended by family members including ex-Army man Godhan Singh Gainra.
The three soldiers were among the five security personnel killed during an anti-terror operation in Handwara in north Kashmir.
Col Sharma was the second commanding officer of 21 RR to have been killed fighting terrorists.
At the Purani Chungi cremation ground on Jaipur's Ajmer Road, his wife Pallavi Sharma kept a brave face as she lit the funeral pyre along with his brother Piush Sharma.
She had earlier held tightly to the folded tricolour, removed from Col Sharma's coffin and handed over to her for a while, as the ceremony progressed. When the body was placed on the pyre she fanned it gently with her 'dupatta'.
Soldiers fired three volleys in a gun salute as the pyre was lit.
Earlier, at the 61 Cavalry grounds, where wreaths were laid on Col Sharma's coffin, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and South Western Army commander Lt Gen Alok Kler paid their respects.
Pallavi Sharma and the couple's daughter Tamanna also stood in salute.
"The entire nation will remember the sacrifice of Colonel Ashutosh Sharma. The country is proud of him," Gehlot told reporters at the wreath-laying ceremony.
When he met Col Sharma's mother, the chief minister bowed to touch her feet.
Similar scenes were witnessed at the Mani Majra cremation ground in Chandigarh, where Major Anuj Sood's body was brought from the family home in Panchkula.
His wife Akriti Sood threw her arms around the coffin in farewell as the body was put on a bedecked army vehicle.
The major's sister Harshita, who is also an army officer, consoled her sister-in-law.
Slogans like 'Vande Mataram', 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' and 'Major Anuj Amar Rahe', were raised as the body, wrapped in the tricolour, was taken to the cremation ground.
Before the cremation, serving and retired army officers laid wreaths.
As he placed a wreath, Anti Terrorist Front of India president Viresh Shandilya raised 'Pakistan Murdabad' and 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' slogans.
Apart from army personnel, only the family members were allowed inside the cremation ground to ensure social distancing norms in force because of the coronavirus pandemic.
A guard of honour was given to Major Sood by the army and soldiers fired three volleys in gun salute.
Major Sood's father Brigadier Chandrakant Sood (retd) lit the pyre.
He had told the media the day before that he was proud of his son's sacrifice. "He was a true son of the nation," he said at his Panchkula home.
The 30-year-old officer was from the Brigade of the Guards regiment, currently part of the 21 Rashtriya Rifles.
He joined the National Defence Academy in 2008. He had one dream, which was to join the army, according to his family.
His family said he was scheduled to return home after a gap of six months. Having finished his two-year stint in Jammu and Kashmir, he was to join the 12 Guards unit in Gurdaspur.