New Delhi: General Bipin Rawat and his wife, Madhulika Rawat, were cremated with full military honours at Delhi’s Brar Square Crematorium on Friday evening. The cremation was performed by their daughters, Kritika and Tarini.
The bodies of Gen Rawat, India’s first Chief of Defence Staff, and his wife were laid side-by-side on the funeral pyre. Hours earlier, at the same crematorium, the General’s top aide, Brigadier LS Lidder, was also cremated. All three, and 10 others, died in a horrific chopper crash in Tamil Nadu on Wednesday. As the flames rose, a 17-gun salute was accorded the Gen Rawat. The elaborate funeral ceremony involved 800 military personnel, in line with established protocol. Earlier on Friday, after the bodies of the General and his wife were brought to the crematorium, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh stood in silent tribute as military bugles sounded in the background. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also paid his respects, as did high-ranking officers from foreign friendly nations.
Gen Rawat and Madhulika Rawat’s bodies were brought to their final resting place in a gun carriage decked with flowers and draped with the national flag, which wound its way through the streets of the national capital as part of a solemn procession that included military personnel marching alongside. The military personnel were joined by civilians waving the national flag and shouting ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ and ‘General Rawat amar rahe’, or ‘General Rawat will live forever’. On Friday morning a sea of mourners visited Gen Rawat’s residence, where his wife and he were laid in state to allow the public to pay their final respects. Among those who came to offer condolences were Home Minister Amit Shah and NSA Ajit Doval. Politicians cutting across party lines also came to express their grief, including Congress MP Rahul Gandhi and the chief ministers of Uttarakhand (PS Dhami) and Delhi (Arvind Kejriwal). Gen Rawat hailed from the Pauri Garwhal district in Uttarakhand.
The bodies of Gen Rawat, his wife and the 11 who died in the crash were brought back to Delhi last night on a C130-J Super Hercules transport aircraft. As the plane landed, Prime Minister Narendra Modi led tributes in a brief but emotional ceremony. Only four bodies have been identified so far – Gen Rawat and his wife, Madhulika Rawat, Brigadier LS Lidder, and Lance Naik Vivek Kumar. Their bodies have been released to the families for last rites. The others will be kept at the Army Base Hospital till identified. Group Captain Singh – the sole survivor – was being treated at the military hospital in Wellington. He has been airlifted to the Air Force’s Command Hospital in Bengaluru. The Group Captain is stable but remains in critical condition, officials have said.