Ezhilarasi, 32 years old, was eagerly looking forward to summer this year. Her daughter will turn three in May, and her husband had promised to come down from Chhattisgarh to celebrate the occasion with the family. For the wife of K Shankar, a constable in the Central Reserve Force, this was a joyous occasion, as she would be seeing her husband again within just three months of his last visit. It was to be a rare reunion, for the family that resides in Kalumaram village in Villupuram district.
But on Saturday, bullets shattered the CRPF constable's promise. K Shankar, 37, was among the 12 CRPF personnel killed in an ambush in the Maoist hotbed of Sukma, Chhattisgarh.
Before being posted to Chattisgarh, the constable had previously been a part of the contingent that handled Congress President Sonia Gandhi's security and a part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's security team for a year, according to his family.
Shankar had married Ezhilarasi in 2007 and the couple had a young daughter and an 8-month-old son. "When he was posted in Chhattisgarh, I told him not to go. There was already so much tension and violence in the area because of Maoists. I warned him over and over again," says an inconsolable Ezhilarasi. "He told me he would get a promotion in March and will request a transfer back to New Delhi. But before any of this could happen, he has been shot," she says.
Ezhilarasi was feeding her toddler on Saturday when she got a call from the CRPF. "The man on the line asked if I was Shankar's wife. When I said yes, he asked to talk to some other man in the house. I could immediately feel my blood freeze. I asked why, but he cut the line. I wasted no time and called the number back and that is when they told me the truth. I was shattered," she says.
From Prime Minister Narendra Modi to MK Stalin, the working President of DMK, condolences have been pouring in for the family. While the Tamil Nadu Government has announced Rs 20 lakh as solatium for the family, the DMK has handed over Rs 1 lakh to the constable's wife. In addition, the TN government has also promised Ezhilarasi, who has a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry, a job commensurate to her qualifications.
"With this money, I want to fulfil all the dreams my husband had," she says firmly. "He wanted to build us a house and make sure our children are well educated. It was the last thing he told me before he set off to Chhattisgarh. He was the one who took care of everything at home. He got his two sisters married and his brother educated. I will now dedicate my efforts to making this come true. I know he is up there and watching over us. I will make my husband proud of me," she promises.
The mortal remains of the constable was air-lifted in a special Indian Air Force aircraft to the Tambaram Air Force base, and Shankar was laid to rest with full military honours at his native village. "The loss I have faced is terrible, but to see these men in uniform pay respect to my husband made me cry in pride. He wanted to make my son an officer as well, but I don't know what will happen in the future. I have to first bring myself to explain to my daughter that her father is dead," says Ezhilarasi, her voice shaking again.