It was an emotional homecoming for an Army Major, who arrived in a coffin wrapped in the Indian flag today. He was among the four Army personnel killed in a gunfight with terrorists near the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir's Bandipora district on Tuesday. His family, friends and residents of Thane, near Mumbai, showered flowers, raised slogans "Major Kaustubh Rane, Amar Rahe", "Vande matram" and "Bharat Mata Ki Jai" as a flower-laden Army truck took him to the crematorium.
Thousands accompanied him waving flags and some holding posters with his photograph.
The roads leading to his home on Mira Road were covered with yellow petals, the colour of hope and longing. Major Rane's family lived in Sheetal Nagar, barely five km north of Mumbai, for over 25 years.
"He always wanted to join the Army...it was his dream since childhood," said a neighbour.
Major Rane, who belonged to the Army's 36 Rashtriya Rifles, lost his life while fighting with terrorists on the Line of Control (LoC) in Gurez sector of Bandipora. He deserved a hero's welcome.
The 29-year-old's last rites were performed with full military honours today. A military band played the last post. Senior personnel offered their last respects to the Major before the funeral pyre was lit.
Major Kaustubh P. Rane's wife, Kanika Rane, is shattered but proud. His two-and-half-year old son Agastya wonders why his family is weeping. His parents have barely spoken since the news of their only son's death.Major Rane was decorated with the Sena Gallantry Medal by President Ram Nath Kovind during Republic Day celebrations this year.
Cut to over 1,500 km from Thane, there was a flower shower in Uttar Pradesh, but for a not-so-noble reason. Rose petals were sprinkled on kanwariyas, the devotees of Lord Shiva. A viral video, heavily criticised on internet, shows Meerut Additional Director General of Police Prashant Kumar, accompanied by Commissioner Chandra Prakash Tripathi, indulging kanwariyas with a rosy shower from a chopper on Wednesday.
The internet called it a waste of taxpayers' money. "Frustrating to watch this nonsense", said one tweet.
"Who is paying for this joy-ride," wondered another Twitter user commenting on the video.
A day earlier, the saffron T-shirt and shorts-wearing kanwariyas battered a car in Delhi's Moti Nagar. The car had reportedly brushed past them. While the driver and her friend ran for safety, their car fell prey to the fury of the rowdy mob. Every year, their actions and unchecked hooliganism in the name of the annual pilgrimage lead widespread anger and disgust.
Prashant Kumar, who had tweeted the video, removed it after a backlash.