SRINAGAR: Gen Bipin Rawat, who once served as the General Officer Commanding of the 19 Infantry Division in Baramulla, had a deep connection with the people of Kashmir, perhaps more than any other Army officer, said Lt Gen D P Pandey General Officer Commanding of the Srinagar-based 15 Corps.
Lt Gen D P Pandey, who visited Baramulla on Thursday to attend a condolence meeting organised by the Army, said: “The amount of love, the connection that he had with the people of Uri, people of Baramulla and especially the people of Kashmir, I don’t think anybody, any army man had.”
“If you see the DP (Display Picture) of many people here, especially the media persons…. I think everyone had a picture with him,” he said.
Gen Rawat, who died along with his wife in a chopper crash in Tamil Nadu, had served in Kashmir in three stints. He was first a company commander in Uri (Baramulla district) and later a sector commander of the Army’s 5 Sector based in Watlab, Sopore. Gen Rawat’s last stint in the Valley was as the General Officer Commanding of the 19 Infantry Division (Dagger division). It was during this stint that Gen Rawat became close to many people in Baramulla town.
Lt Gen Pandey said even as the Army Chief and Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Rawat would attend calls from the people of Kashmir. “He (Rawat) used to attend calls from everyone here,” he said. “He would listen to their needs, call me and ask me to listen to them and help them. I am sure that more than anyone else, it is the loss of the people of Baramulla.”
Lt Gen Pandey said that the two tenures of Gen Rawat in Baramulla were close to his heart. “I am sure you all must be feeling this loss like the Indian Army, Armed forces and the whole country is feeling,” he said. “His (Gen Rawat’s) wife and others were also killed and this is a huge tragedy and it will take a lot of time for us to come out of this grief.”
The Army said in a statement that the people of Machil on the Line of Control (LoC) in Kupwara sector paid tribute to Gen Rawat and organised a candlelight march on Thursday. Gen Rawat had visited the Machil sector on July 27 this year along with Brigadier L S Lidder, who was also killed in the crash.
“The congregation kept two minutes of silence for the departed souls and prayed to the Almighty to grant them eternal peace,” said the defence spokesperson in a statement. “Gen Rawat would always be remembered by the Kashmiris for his untiring efforts to ensure security and to bring peace and stability in J&K.”