Written byShalini Ojha
The attack, the worst one to hit the Valley in decades, was the brainchild of Jaish-e-Mohammed.
While most of us expressed anguish, anger, and demanded revenge, one musician from Bengaluru set out on a journey of a lifetime to "unite" the martyrs.
Umesh Gopinath Jadhav, who was a pharmacist before he took up a career in music, was returning to the Karnataka's capital from Ajmer on February 14, 2019.
As he waited for his flight, Jadhav saw news of the dastardly attack.
"I couldn't sleep for three nights straight. I wondered how relatives of the martyrs felt at that point," he told The Hindu last August.
Jadhav then embarked on a journey to collect soil from villages of the martyrs. In his modified Maruti Suzuki 800, he traveled across 16 states and covered 61,000 km.
He collected soil from two spots — one where the soldier took his first step (his home) and another where he was cremated.
The crowd-funded journey began on April 9 on Valor's Day from Bengaluru.
Jadhav spent nights inside his car, which has patriotic messages like "Independence is not free, it costs us soldiers" imprinted on it, as he couldn't afford hotels. He was fed by strangers.
"A soldier does what he does for the country's soil. Although we are born in different parts, we are all part of the same nation," Jadhav said last year.
"I didn't want to say rest in peace to martyrs on social media. Rather, I am meeting their families to say that we stand with them," Jadhav said. He hoped to raise Rs. 50,000 for each family.
Locating the families wasn't easy either. Some of them lived in remote places.
Remembering his journey, he told TOI, "We ate together and cried together. I even celebrated my birthday on December 21 with the family of a soldier from Punjab's Ropar."
He said his wife and two kids are proud of him; he wishes that someday his children join the defense forces.
"I am proud that I met all the families of Pulwama martyrs and sought their blessings. Parents lost their son, wives lost their husbands, children lost their fathers, friends lost their friends. I collected soil from their houses and their cremation grounds," he told ANI.
The urn in which he collected the soil was on Friday placed at a memorial at CRPF's Lethpora camp. Jadhav was the special guest for the ceremony.
CRPF's additional director general Zulfiquar Hasan said the inauguration was a low-key affair but Jadhav was invited owing to his gesture.
"Their soil is for mother Earth," said Jadhav after he handed over the urn.
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