"PM Called... Asked All To Bring His Body": Indian Student's Father To NDTV

Russia-Ukraine War: Indian student Naveen, 21, had been standing in a queue outside a grocery store when the Russians blew up a government building.

Ukraine Airlifts: Naveen spoke to his family at least twice a day from Ukraine's Kharkiv.


Naveen Shekharappa Gyanagoudar spoke to his family at least twice a day from Ukraine's Kharkiv, where he was studying to be a doctor. On Tuesday, he made a quick call before leaving his bunker to bring food supplies. He promised a longer call later.

That call never came. His father, Shekharappa Gyanagoudar, kept calling his phone but got no response. At 2 pm, he finally got a call; it was the foreign ministry, informing him about his son's death in Russian shelling.

"Yesterday morning he called around 10 am. He said I will have breakfast and call. After that, there was no communication. His phone was ringing but no one was picking up. At 2 PM, I received a call from the Ministry of External Affairs. At 4.30 PM, PM (Narendra) Modi called. (Chief Minister Basavaraj) Bommai called. I requested everybody to bring his body home. They said they would arrange for the body to be flown back within two days," Mr Gyanagoudar told NDTV.

Naveen's elder brother Harsha said: "My brother stepped out of the bunker to buy groceries and to stock up on food because he was to leave Kharkiv and head to the borders. He had planned to catch a train around 1:30pm."

He complained that the government did not act on time. "If only the government had acted faster, my brother would have been alive today. Why weren't there more evacuation flights then?" he said.

Naveen, 21, had been standing in a queue outside the grocery when the Russians blew up a government building. After the explosion, frantic calls to his phone were answered by a weeping Ukrainian woman who said the "owner of this phone is being taken to the morgue".

Naveen used to call his family three or four times a day, his father shared. "He would call morning, afternoon, evening... He used to say that he had asked the university to declared a holiday... they were told nothing would happen. So they were forced to stay."

Mr Gyanagowda said his son and other students had been staying in a bunker for nearly two weeks and had been trying to leave Kharkiv.

"When war started, there was a travelling problem - they were 100 km from the border. They were worried, they approached the embassy in Ukraine, but said they did not get proper response from the embassy. Finally, I lost my son..."

On Monday, Naveen told his father that he was "trying to somehow leave Kharkiv" and those who had already made a road journey to the border would guide them.

"There was some hope," he said, fighting back tears.

His son, he said, repeatedly said they were not getting any response from the embassy. "Finally, I got a call from the ministry informing me about the death of my son. There was no communication before that," he said.

At the village Chalageri, Naveen's hometown in Karnataka, his relatives have arrived for a grim gathering.

Harsha only hopes his brother's friends and others who are stranded return home safe. "There are two students from this very village who are studying in Ukraine and were in touch with my brother. Their parents are very anxious," he said.

Naveen's cousin said he had spoken to him just two days ago. "He was a cool person, brave... He said the situation was normal inside the bunker. He always wanted to help. He went out alone to take some things - like snacks," he said.

"The government should have acted immediately to bring the students back when war was announced. Now we want whoever is there to come back home safely."