Palakkad: A Catholic bishop Tuesday joined thousands of people in Kerala to pay homage to an army officer who died fighting terrorists in northern India.
Lieutenant Colonel Elambulassery Kalarikkal Niranjan was laid to rest at his ancestral home in Kerala’s Palakkad.
The 34-year-old officer was killed Sunday while defusing an explosive from a terrorist’s body at the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot Punjab. He led a bomb disposal squad of the National Security Guard.
The mourners who thronged Kumar’s home included Bishop Jacob Manathodath of Palghat and Vicar General Joseph Chittilapally. The Catholic prelate conveyed his condolences and prayers to their family. He described the soldier’s death as “a great loss for the entire nation.”
Diocesan public relations officer Fr. Abraham Palathinkal said that the Army official’s death is “an eye opener for all the nations to stand against terrorism.”
Kumar, an Army engineer, was promoted as Lieutenant Colonel a few months ago.
He is survived by his 67-year-old father EK Shivarajan, wife Dr KG Radhika, a dentist, and 18-month-old daughter.
“I am very proud that my son has done his job well. He always wanted to join the army since his childhood,” Sivarajan, a retired officer of the Bharat Earth Movers Limited.
He first brought his son’s body wrapped in the Indian Tricolor to Bengaluru, where the family has lived for many years, and then to home town Palakkad. “We need peace… Let’s not go for violence and horrible things,” Sivarajan told reporters.
Senior officers of the NSG saluted the officer. “We are here to salute this brave Martyr,” said Maj General M Chandy, an NSG Inspector General. According to him, Kumar trained his men well and always led from the front.
“I remember Lt Col Niranjan Kumar for three qualities. He was a man who knew no fear and was exceptionally brave. He topped his bomb disposal course in NSG and was selected for training in the U.S. He was a brilliant mind and always led by example. It’s a big loss to me and NSG.” He told NDTV.
Chants of “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” (hail Mother India) and “Niranjan amar rahe” (Niranjan is immortal) rented the air as his body was lowered to a soil pit atop a hill near the Kalarikkal house. The burial, held as per Hindu community customs was with full military honors, including drill and gun salute.
Niranjan’s body was flown from Bangalore to Palakkad by a chopper on Monday evening. The body was taken to his uncle’s house where thousands paid tributes to the officer.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and other ministers paid their last respects the slain officer on January 4 night.
Earlier in the day, the body was shifted to the ground of a local school where people from all walks of life filed past the body of the brave officer, raising slogans and offering floral tributes. They strew flower petals on the road when the body was taken to the family’s burial ground by a decorated army truck.
The village and nearby areas observed a shutdown as a mark of respect to the slain officer. They raised banners everywhere and wore badges lauding the officer who laid his life for the nation.
Meanwhile federal Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar said on January 5 that all the six terrorists who attacked the Pathankot station were neutralized in an operation that lasted for more than 36 hours since 3.30am on Saturday.
Parrikar, however, admitted to “some gaps” that led to the terror attack on the Air Force base. The minister spoke to reporters after a visit to the forward base.
He said things would be clear after the investigations. While praising the security forces for their action against the terrorists, Parrikar said he was worried as to how the terrorists had managed to enter the base which has a perimeter of 24 km and located in an area of about 2,000 acres.
He said the terrorists were carrying 40-50 kgs of bullets, mortars, which were fired from modified Under-Barrel Grenade Launcher besides some magazines.
Parrikar announced that all those seven security personnel killed during the attack will be treated as martyrs that will entitle them to all the benefits available to “battle casualty” like in war-like situation.