New Delhi: India's first Chief of Defence Staff, General Bipin Rawat, laid to final rest with full military honours and a 17-gun salute. His last rites were performed along with his wife Madhulika Rawat, who too lost her life in the Chopper crash on Wednesday in Tamil Nadu. Their two daughters, Kritika and Tarini, performed the last rites.
A pall of gloom descended over the Brar Square Crematorium and the roads between his residence and the venue where the last rites were conducted. Sources said that the ashes of Gen Rawat and his deceased wife are likely to be taken to Haridwar on Saturday.
Hundreds of Gen Rawat's admirers and children waved a final goodbye to the man whom they saw as the army chief and later the commander-in-chief of three forces at a critical time in India's history when forces carried out three major strikes against terrorists and the civil-military administration undertook the much-needed defence reforms.
In 2015, India undertook a major operation in Manipur and deep inside the wilds of Myanmar. Lt. Gen Rawat's team planned the operation from Dimapur in Nagaland. In the 2016 Surgical strike across LoC in September, Gen Rawat was involved in the planning exercise. In 2019, the Air Force carried out aerial strikes and destroyed terror camps at Balakot.
As the CDS, Gen Rawat was also the Secretary to the Department of Military Affairs. It spoke of the importance Gen Rawat held.
"It's incredibly sad. He was a pioneer as he started the joint defence approach which we follow in the UK," lamented Alex Ellis, British High Commissioner.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh was present during the last rites. Mobile phones were up in the air in the hands of mourners at times who wanted to click a final shot and capture the moment. The deluge of mourners, many old-timers said, was something the national capital has not seen for a man in camouflage.
Seven other Indian Army officers and jawans, including Brig LS Lidder, four Indian Air Force officers and Gen Rawat's wife Madhulika, lost their lives in the military chopper crash near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu on Dec 8.
The final journey of CDS General Bipin Rawat from his residence to the Brar Square crematorium had started around 2 pm.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh announced in both Houses of Parliament on Thursday that all officers and jawans would be given military honours.
Army said positive identification of only three mortal remains has been possible as of now, that of General Bipin Rawat, Madhulika Rawat and Brigadier LS Lidder.
Officials say Brig L S Lidder, commissioned to JAKRIF in Dec 1990, was also approved to Maj Gen rank and due to take over a Division soon. Earlier in the day, Brig Lidder's wife, Geetika, in an emotional remark said, she is a 'soldier's wife' and her husband deserved a good farewell. Their daughter Aashna recalled her father as an affectionate man and the "biggest motivator".
People raised slogans in mournful voices – 'ab tak suraj chand rahega….'.
Sixty-six-year Sardar Gurdev Singh said his son too is in the Indian army. "… And I know how much different Gen Rawat as the army chief and later as the CDS made it for the forces and the junior level personnel."
In Uttar Pradesh, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath met the family members of Wing Commander Prithvi Singh Chauhan, who also was killed in the helicopter crash.
Expressing his condolences, the Chief Minister said that the state govt would provide a job to his family member and Rs 50 lakh compensation.
"We will also name an institution after him," the Chief Minister said.
Son of a Lieutenant General (Laxman Singh Rawat), Gen Bipin Rawat was an alumnus of St. Edward School, Shimla and the National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla.
General Rawat was a graduate from the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, and had also attended the command and general staff course at Fort Leavenworth, USA.
Admiral Ravindra C. Wijegunaratne (Retd), former Chief of Defence Staff of Sri Lanka and CDS Rawat's course-mate at National Defence College, also came to pay tribute.
Chief Justice of India, N. V. Ramana, also paid his respect.
Military commanders of Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, and Bangladesh to attend last rites India's first CDS Gen Bipin Rawat