Hundreds bid farewell to martyr
Thiruvananthapuram: The body of Captain R. Harshan, who died fighting terrorists in Kashmir on March 20, was cremated with full military honours amidst a milling crowd here at Puthenkotta burial ground on Thursday evening.
The Special Forces officer attached to the elite Second Para Commandos had got shot in the thigh and neck in a fire fight with Harkatul Mujahideen (HuM) terrorists at night.
The officer killed two of the terrorists before he died. His valour in the face of heavy odds inspired his men to eliminate the remaining terrorists.
Lt. Colonel P. Srivastava, Harshan's commanding officer and a veteran Special Forces man himself, told reporters that the Captain's death was a national loss.
"I have shed tears for this man who I knew personally and professionally. It is difficult to replace an officer like him," he said.
On March 7, Harshan had led a commando operation that resulted in the elimination of two of the top leaders of the HuM in north Kashmir. He was scheduled to visit home in March.
Capt. Harshan, a member of the elite `Red Devil' unit, was commissioned into the Special Forces in December 2002. He was conferred the Bali-Dan (Sacrifice) badge after a year of service.
Capt. Harshan, the son of a lawyer hailing from Attukal, had undergone the rigours of tough commando training to earn the coveted parachute wings (fixed on the right chest) and maroon coloured beret of Special Forces men.
An alumnus of Sainik School, Kazhakuttam, and the National Defence Academy, Harshan had done more than 50 `para-jumps' from high altitudes and was adept in the infiltration, assault, ambush, urban warfare and unarmed combat like most of his colleagues.
Three Para Commandos from Harshan's unit, P.S. Saju, Binu Nair and Avinash Malik, escorted the body, as soldiers from the Madras Regiment carried it out of the airport. The body was accorded State honours at the airport and later laid in State at Sri Avittom Thirunal Granthasala for the public to pay homage. The body was kept for 10 minutes at Harshan's house before being taken to Puthenkotta for cremation.
Shops remained closed in Manacaud and Attukal as a mark of respect for the soldier.
People from all walks of life, including members of the Manacaud Muslim Jama-ath, turned out in large numbers to pay homage to the martyr.
The body of Naik G.S. Ratish Kumar, who died in a similar anti-terrorist operation, in Kashmir was cremated with full military honours at his birthplace in Venganoor.
The soldier was accorded full military honours earlier at the airport.