Indian ‘war hero’ and wife cremated on same pyre after dying from Covid within hours of each other

“They loved each other a lot and my father always said he won’t leave my mother grieving over his death.”

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An Indian ‘war hero’ and his partner who died of Covid-19 within hours of each other — in what is yet another poignant reminder of India’s devastating Covid catastrophe — were cremated on the same pyre, last week.

96-year old Brigadier Atma Singh and his 84-year-old wife Sarla Atma died on Monday within hours of each other. Sarla Atma died at Gurugram’s Medanta hospital in the national capital region and Singh died at home just hours later.

Singh was also called the Founding father of the Indian Army’s 17 Kumaon Regiment. The couple died within one week of contracting the virus.

Singh and Atma’s elder daughter, Kiran Choudhry, who is a Member of Legislative Assembly from the Indian National Congress [the main opposition party in India] from Haryana said that her parents were cremated on a single pyre at Delhi Cantonment in Delhi.

Speaking with the Indian Express she said: “I am devastated by the loss but we knew they would leave together. They loved each other a lot and my father always said he won’t leave my mother grieving over his death. My father died at home and my mother passed away at the hospital. The Indian Army put their bodies on one pyre and cremated them. They were the perfect couple,” said Kiran.

During his years in the army, Singh had been shot in the abdomen and his hand. He also served in the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war as he led the 17 Kumaon Regiment in East Pakistan’s Bhadauria, the family told the media. His war cry of “Jai Ram Sarv Shakti Maan” for the 17 Kumaon Regiment is still used by the Indian army.

Ms Choudhry, speaking about her “strong” mother, Sarla Atma, and said that she single-handedly raised three children when her father was at the border.

On Twitter, she said that being cremated on the same pyre and the “mingling of their last mortal remains is the most poignant testimony to their love.” She added, “My parents’ life was a saga of love & devotion: even death could not part!”

On 26 April, Ms Choudry had also tweeted saying that: “It is a painful and irreparable loss for me. It is very sad to lose the shadow of parents in a single day.”

She was quoted by the Indian Express as saying: “My father was involved in four surgical strikes, including during the Mizo insurgency. He was brave and always talked about his assignments. After the Indo-Pak War, his regiment was conferred the Bhadauria Battle Honours. We could never talk about his bravery because all these achievements were part of covert operations. My father was a simple man… he loved the Army.”

The Covid catastrophe in India has so far claimed more than 200,000 lives. In fact, the bodies outside crematoriums and graveyards are piling up with claims surfacing that the government is severely under-reporting the actual number of Covid deaths in the country.

On Thursday, the latest data said that India registered a total of some 379,000 Covid positive cases with 3,645 dead in the last 24 hours.

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