Kolkata: Sepoy Rajesh Orang, 25, had the kind of love story that belongs on the big screen. He spotted a girl at a village festival, fell in love with her and asked her to marry him. She said yes, too.
According to friends, Rajesh, one of the 20 soldiers killed in the Galwan Valley clashes with China this week, was about to get married next month.
The news of his death brought scenes of despair to his house in the forested tribal village of Belgoria in Bengal’s Birbhum district, but there was also pride. Rajesh’s cousin Abhishek, 24, said the two brothers had aspired to serve in the Army together.
“Rajesh was more than a brother, he was my best friend. He motivated me to join the force,” said Abhishek, who is in his second year at an industrial training institute (ITI). “We dreamt of staying in a tent together. He left me, but strengthened my resolve.”
Nagen Orang, Rajesh’s uncle and Abhishek’s father, expressed pride that they had “sacrificed our son for the country”. “We have lost one son, but we have one more. We want him to join the force. This brings us ultimate pride and prestige,” he said. “My nephew was and is a hero.”
The last call
Belgoria, a village of 80 to 90 families, sends many of its young men to the security forces, including military, paramilitary and police.
Rajesh was in his second year of graduation in 2015 when he joined the Army. He was posted in Ladakh for the last year and a half, said Abhishek. The young sepoy was the sole breadwinner for the family.
The family came to know about Rajesh’s death from a senior Army officer who called them Tuesday evening.
Rajesh, the officer told them, was critically injured in the clashes and succumbed to his injuries at the Army hospital.
A day later, his father Subhash Orang, a terminally-ill marginal farmer, was inconsolable.
“We say that we are proud. People will tell us that we should be proud. But after some days, when all this will be over, we will have an empty life without my only son,” Orang, 50, told ThePrint over the phone. “I do not want war, but I also do not want to see my son’s sacrifice go in vain,” he added.
Rajesh had last visited the family in January and was building a concrete house for them so they could move out of their mud house.
His last call came two weeks ago, to his sister Shakuntala, who studies at a college in neighbouring Jharkhand but is at home currently on account of the lockdown. “The call only lasted for two minutes. He told his sister to stay well and take care of us,” said Subhash. “He said he would be climbing up now and there would be no network, so he would call back later after reaching their base camp,” Subhash added. “We were standing there, but did not get a chance to speak to him.”
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Wednesday announced a compensation package of Rs 5 lakh for the family and a job for one of them.