A father to two young girls, a husband, a man fondly remembered by everyone in his village in Unnao in Uttar Pradesh, 35-year-old Ajit Kumar was one of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) soldiers killed when terrorists attacked a convoy with an SUV laden with explosives in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama on Thursday.
Of the over 40 CRPF personnel who were killed in the deadliest terror attack on security forces in Jammu and Kashmir, the maximum casualties from a single state stand at 12, from Uttar Pradesh. For many in rural Uttar Pradesh, a job in the army or the paramilitary forces holds out the hope of a better life and one of dignity and respect.
30-year-old Awadhesh Kumar Yadav, another soldier who died, had a rather interesting nickname in this village - "Bahadurpur ka Bahadur" or "Brave Man of Bahadurpur" - the play on the name of his village in eastern Uttar Pradesh's Chandauli district and the bravery that is associated with a job in the army or paramilitary forces. Awadhesh joined the CRPF in 2006. Over the last few years, Awadhesh had to muster up courage not just to work from the front because of an extremely challenging Kashmir posting, but also in helping his mother fight cancer.
The family of 30-year-old Vijay Kumar Maurya, a CRPF soldier who served for over a decade and was posted with the 92nd battalion of the CRPF's Kashmir operations sector, says they got a phone call late last night. "I simply refused to believe the person on the phone and asked him to repeat the information at least three times before the shock of what had happened sunk in," his sobbing father told NDTV over the phone.
Vijay, who has a two-year-old daughter, joined service in 2007. His family told NDTV that one of his biggest worries was being unable to see her grow up in the early years, because he had to be away for work in a very challenging environment.
In 2021, 40-year-old Ram Vakeel Mathur would have completed two decades with the CRPF and it was something that made him extremely proud. Before his Kashmir posting, Ram Vakeel was posted in western Uttar Pradesh's Aligarh for a few years. His family told NDTV that he and his wife were extremely concerned about the education of their three children. Ram Vakeel put in a lot of effort to get two of his children, a 12-year-old and a 10-year-old, admitted to the government-run Kendriya Vidyalaya in Etawah, about 40 km from the family home in Mainpuri.
Ram Vakeel had also taken this elder son to football trials to Agra the last time he was home on vacation. The family had plans to get a loan sanctioned this March to build a home on a plot of land they had recently purchased.
When 25-year-old Mahesh Kumar joined the CRPF in 2016 , the event was celebrated in his village in eastern Uttar Pradesh's Prayagraj district, not only by his family but by the entire village. Mahesh's father has spent over a two decades in Mumbai as an auto driver and used to tell Mahesh that he wanted to return home to a more relaxed life in a few years' time.