In memory of Kargil martyrs

The Times of India News | Updated: Jul 28, 2007, 2:50 ..

Lt Col Ajit Bhandarkar lost his life after killing three militants in an encounter in Poonch, Jammu and Kashmir, during the Kargil War in 1999. He was one of the 17 martyrs from Karnataka and their heroic tales were remembered as the nation observed Vijay Diwas on Thursday. Lt Col Bhandarkar’s wife, Shakunthala Bhandarkar, observed the day by offering prayers.

Shakunthala, an English teacher at Army Public School, has bravely fought a different battle after losing her husband. “I do not let the past affect me, I live for the present,” she says.

“On his death anniversary, October 30, we feed the poor or make a donation to NGOs who look after the disabled or underprivileged children. He did not believe in extravagance and unnecessary expenditure and I respect that,” she said.

Shakunthala has been honoured by the government and other organisations on many occasions. Karnataka’s chief minister honoured her in 2000 and later and she received the Shaurya Chakra, one of the highest military honours in 2001. Narrating how her husband died, she recalls that Lt Col Bhandarkar was part of a search operation to flush out five militants in Faisalabad in Poonch, when he spotted fleeing militants.

He chased and shot dead one of them at point-blank range, but another militant shot and injured him. Lt Col Bhandarkar, however, lobbed a grenade and killed his attacker. He then shot dead another militant. He succumbed to his injuries later.

Eight years later, Shakunthala says, “I still feel he is there with us.”

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