The last rites of two soldiers from Odisha who were killed in a violent clash with Chinese troops in Ladakh's Galwan Valley earlier this week were performed with full military honours at their native places on Friday.
The body of Naib Subedar Nanduram Soren (43) was consigned to flames as per Santhali customs at Champauda village in Mayurbhanj district. The mortal remains of Sepoy Chandrakanta Pradhan (28) were laid to rest at Bearipanga village in Kandhamal district as per Christian rituals.
Scores of people thronged the two nondescript tribal villages to pay tributes to the fallen soldiers, who were accorded the guard of honour.
Thousands raised slogans such as "Nanduram Soren Amar Rahe" and "Bharat Mata Ki Jai" as they joined Soren's cortege, which began from Rairangpur town and culminated at the cremation ground in Champauda, seven kilometers away.
Soren's nephew Kanhu Soren lit the pyre in the presence of his family members and relatives.
State Revenue Minister Sudam Marndi, Lok Sabha MP Biswasara Tudu, Rajya Sabha member Mamata Mohanta and several other distinguished personalities were among those who bid farewell to the fallen soldier.
Soren is survived by his wife Laxmi Soren and three school-going daughters. He had joined the Army's 16 Bihar Regiment in 1997.
He had last visited his family in January on a 45-day leave and made the final phone call to his wife on June 7, a week before the Galwan Valley clash.
Similar scenes were witnessed at the funeral of Sepoy Pradhan.
A motorbike procession was taken out from Raikia to Bearipanga amid tight security and slogans like "Saheed Chandrakanta Amar Rahe" were raised, Balliguda Sub-Collector Devendra Kumar Nanda said.
Around 3,000 people gathered to pay their last respects to Pradhan. The administration ensured adherence to social distancing norms, he said.
Pradhan's mortal remains were buried 200 metres from his house in accordance with Christian rituals.
Pradhan, who was unmarried, had joined the 16 Bihar Regiment in March 2014. He is survived by his father, Karunakar Pradhan, mother Bilasini Pradhan, elder sister and two younger brothers.
According to his father, Pradhan was the sole breadwinner of the family that belongs to a marginal farming community.
"We have lost everything by losing our only earning son. He was very simple, amiable and extremely duty-bound. But at the same time, we feel proud that my son has made the supreme sacrifice for the motherland," Pradhan's mother Bilasini said in a voice choked with emotion.
The bodies of the two slain soldiers had arrived in Bhubaneswar on Thursday evening.
Governor Ganeshi Lal and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik were among a galaxy of dignitaries present at the airport to pay tributes to the jawans.
Patnaik had on Wednesday announced an ex-gratia of Rs 25 lakh each from the Chief Minister's Relief Fund for the kin of the two slain jawans.
Soren and Pradhan were among the 20 Indian soldiers who were killed in a clash with the Chinese Army in Ladakh's Galwan Valley on June 15, the biggest military confrontation in over five decades that has significantly escalated an already volatile border standoff in the region.