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A father fights for justice for his dead soldier son

Reportage: Shobha Warrier
Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj

April 23, 2007
Like many young men, S Ravi Shankar dreamt of serving his country by joining the Indian Army. Even before he finished his graduation, he sat for the army examination and was selected to be trained as an officer.

It was one of the proudest moments for the young man and his parents when he joined the Indian Army as a young lieutenant in 1988 in Sikkim. After serving in important operations including the Kargil war, he was promoted to major posted at the 1 Corps Grid Signals Regiment, AERN, in Mathura in 2003.

Just two months later, Major Ravi Shankar sounded disturbed and disillusioned when he spoke, his father S Vasu, 76, remembers. Major Shankar mentioned to his father about financial irregularities at his regiment.

On Friday evening, August 22, 2003, the major instructed the sentry to have candles ready in case the power went off as his 8-year-old daughter Raveena was alone at home. The 36-year-old major was to be promoted to lieutenant colonel in 10 days.

He said he would be back in 15 minutes as he went out. He never returned.

Veena, his worried wife, told the army office that night itself about her missing husband; no action was taken and no first investigation report was filed.

There was no news from him the next day. Still, no First Information Report was filed.

On the morning on Sunday the 24th, the authorities agreed to file an FIR.

Shortly thereafter, Veena was informed her husband was dead and that his body was cremated on the 23rd evening as an unidentified body found on the railway tracks.

His parents, who were visiting his sister in Kota, Rajasthan, arrived to hear the shocking news.

"It seems a gangman named Roop Singh found him crossing the railway track early 23rd morning," says Vasu.

"He was the only witness to a goods train hitting my son. He informed the railway police at 9 am though the accident is said to have taken place at 4 am. As there was nothing on my son's body to identify him, they kept the body till the evening in the mortuary and cremated it at 6 pm, I was told. Nobody else ever saw his body. But my son always carried his ID card, his purse and his watch."

Image: Major S Ravi Shankar

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