The tiny village of Chandole in Guntur district was eagerly looking for the holy crescent hours before the beginning of Ramzan on Wednesday evening, but instead had to make arrangements for the funeral of one of its sons who died in the line of duty. The death of Havildar Rafi Mohammed, 608 EME Battalion of Indian Army, in Jammu and Kashmir, plunged the village into grief.
The 32-year-old Rafi Mohammed had been serving in the Indian Army for the past 12 years. He is survived by his wife, Irshad, and two daughters aged 3 years and 7 months. “He moved to Kargil sector from Siliguri in West Bengal only last year,” Arif, the soldier’s elder, told TOI holding his back his tears. “He was never scared of working in trouble-torn areas. We are proud of him as he laid down his life in the service of the nation.”
Family members were in deep shock after learning about the encounter, and his wife fell unconscious even as the whole village gathered to console the family. “He visited our village last January, and promised to visit again for Eid. Allah did injustice to us,” said a close relative. Villagers recall their association with Rafi, saying he was a humble person, always ready to help the needy.
Youngest among five siblings, Rafi was inspired by his elder brother Arif, who served in the Indian Army for over 26 years. “While two brothers joined the Army, two work as schoolteachers, and one of the brothers took up farming in the village. The entire family is in the service of the nation in different capacities,” said Ghouse, a village elder.
Chandole, a Muslim dominant village in Pittalavani Vani Palem mandal of Guntur district, is a village of soldiers. About 500 youths from Chandole are serving the armed forces at different ranks.
The Army said that mortal remains of Havildar Rafi Mohammad will arrive at Vijayawada Airport from New Delhi by air at 8 pm on Thursday. Thereafter, at night, the remains will be moved by road to his hometown for last rites. The Army said the funeral will be conducted with full military honours at his native place on May 18.
The family is making arrangements to conduct the final rites after Friday namaz.
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