Some of them began their journey at 4 a.m., making their way from Uttarakhand to the National Capital in time to catch the last sight of India’s first Chief of Defence Staff, General Bipin Rawat, who was born in the state. Crowds had gathered outside his official residence in the heart of Delhi by lunchtime, as political leaders, senior military officials, and the Chief Justice of India paid their tributes.
In the end, the long wait outside was futile as time ran out, and Gen Rawat and his wife Madhulika’s mortal remains were brought to the Brar Square crematorium, where their two daughters said them an emotional farewell.
Earlier, the crematorium witnessed Brigadier L S Lidder’s final rituals, who was among the 13 individuals killed in an IAF helicopter crash near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu on Wednesday.
The burned remains of the others have yet to be recognised in order for the final rites to be performed.
The 13 caskets were transported from Sulur, near Coimbatore, to the Palam airbase Thursday night, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tribute by putting a wreath and offering petals in front of each of them.
Brigadier Lidder’s daughter, Aashna, told ANI on Friday, “I am going to turn 17.” So he was with me for 17 years, and we shall leave with fond memories. It is a national tragedy. My father was a hero and a best friend to me. Perhaps it was fate, and better things will come our way. He was my most powerful motivator.“
Brigadier Lidder’s wife, GeetikaLidder, told ANI, “We must give him a good farewell, a smiling send-off since I am a soldier’s wife.” It’s a significant loss.“
Union Minister Amit Shah was among the prominent leaders who arrived early at General Rawat’s residence on Kamraj Marg. “I paid my last respects to Gen Bipin Rawat Ji and Mrs Madhulika Rawat Ji with a sorrowful heart.” Gen. Rawat exemplified boldness and courage. It was a tragedy that he died so young. “His devotion to the homeland will live on in our hearts forever,” Shah tweeted, accompanied by photos of him putting wreaths on the two caskets.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was among the first to arrive from the opposition ranks, arriving shortly after 11 a.m. and staying for around 10 minutes. “This is an unparalleled tragedy, and our hearts go out to their family during this trying time.” Heartfelt condolences also go out to everyone else who died. “In this time of mourning, India stands united,” he subsequently tweeted.
Other early arrivals included the country’s senior bureaucrats — P K Mishra, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, and Cabinet Secretary Rajeev Gauba — as well as National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, who is close to General Rawat.
From then until 2 p.m., when the mortal remains were removed, a slew of senior figures came to pay their respects. Chief Justice of India N V Ramana also paid his respects at the official house.
The ruling coalition included BJP President JP Nadda, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami and former Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh Chief Ministers Manohar Lal Khattar and Yogi Adityanath, and Union Ministers Nirmala Sitharama, S Jaishankar, Smriti Irani, Anurag Thakur, and Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.
Aside from Rahul Gandhi, non-NDA parties were represented by Mallikarjun Kharge, Kodikunnil Suresh, and former Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat (Congress), Kanimozhi (DMK), Harsimrat Kaur Badal (SAD), Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal (AAP), Sushmita Dev and Jawahar Sircar (TMC), and some of the suspended Rajya Sabha MPs,
Among those who arrived were several ambassadors, defence attachés, and a considerable number of serving and retired military officers, as well as their families. The three service chiefs — General M MNaravane, Admiral R Hari Kumar, and Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari — were among the last to arrive at the CDS’ residence and left with the vehicle carrying the lifeless remains for the crematorium.
Sandeep Deshmukh, a 32-year-old businessman from Satara, Maharashtra, said he came because “every family in my village has someone in the military.” Ramesh Chandra, an accountant, volunteered to stand in line because General Rawat “was such a great personality, and it is our obligation to pay honour to him.”
Kulwinder Singh, who works in the “mechanical field,” stated that he had some for “darshan because General Rawat was extremely nice.” Anandita and Rishab, two students in their twenties, said he “had played an important role, and as civilians, it was important to respect that.” According to Rishab, the “right hand of the country was perforated,” and while there are “a lot of heroes in the country,” “there will be a significant hole to fill.”
The mortal remains of General Rawat and his wife were transported to the cremation shortly after 2 p.m. The pallbearers were two officers from each service, each a three-star officer, and the gun carriage was furnished by a ceremonial battery.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh was among the last to pay his respects to General Rawat, who was cremated with full military honours and a 17-gun salute.
“Rawat devoted his life to defending and protecting our nation,” Rajnath tweeted. India will remember him for his bravery, chivalry, and patriotism. “Farewell, General!”
The cremation ceremonies were handled by General Rawat’s daughters, Kritika and Tarini, who burned the funeral pyre after the Defense Minister laid a wreath and the last bugle fired.