Cameraperson: Sumit Badola
Video Editor: Sandeep Suman
It is a hot summer’s day. The road to Jataula village in Haryana is long and dusty, snaking through fields. Once inside the village, with its paved but narrow roads, it isn’t difficult to find the house of the Ranas. Nearly everyone from Jataula seems to have congregated there to pay their respects.
It is the eleventh day since 50-year-old Constable Jagbir Singh Rana of the Railway Protection Force jumped onto the railway tracks at Delhi’s Azadpur railway station on 21 April to save the lives of four people who had wandered onto the tracks. He managed to push them out of the way of an incoming train, but in the process, was knocked down by a train from the other side that he didn’t see coming. Rana was killed on the spot.
People who live beside the tracks in the village of Azadpur recall an evening some time ago when a man was killed while saving lives. “It was around 9 pm on Sunday evening. We saw the accident from here, from the side. We didn’t go there to see because my head starts spinning,” Krishna, one of the villagers who witnessed the accident from across the tracks said.
‘By the Time We Reached, Papa Was Dead’
Back in Jataula, Rana’s family – two sons and two daughters – is still in shock and tears. He had left home around 5 pm that fateful evening and reached his station at 6:15 pm, his wife Sunita said. All was fine till she received a call at around 9:40 pm and was informed that her husband had passed away.
Sunita remained at home in shock, but her eldest son Rohit along with some other family members rushed to the spot. “By the time we reached, Papa was dead,” said Rohit.
His two sisters, who are married and live elsewhere were informed the next morning about their father’s demise. “I was told he had been injured but that he would be okay. It was only the next morning, when we came home that we were told he had passed away,” Monika, the eldest daughter said.
‘Any Praise of Him Would Fall Short’
The family says this isn’t the first time Rana went out of his way to save people on the tracks. Several times before, on the same tracks where he lost his life, he had jumped to people’s rescue, even injuring himself.
His seniors and co-workers remember him as someone extremely diligent, sincere and honest. “He was a very cute and nice person and would help people however he could,” Charanjeet, a member of the signal department who worked the Azadpur station told The Quint.
Rana had won awards before for his work as well, and now, for his last supreme sacrifice, the RPF inspector he worked under, Hoshiar Singh, has recommended his name for a bravery award. He hopes that it will come through to honour his staff member. “Any praise of him would fall short,” Singh said.
‘Proud He Saved Lives Before Dying’
The family remains proud of Rana and is happy that he died while showing so much bravery.
“Everybody is saddened by the loss of their husband but I am proud of the fact that he saved lives before dying. They were also someone’s children. Everyone has to die but I am happy that he was martyred while saving someone’s life. He always said don’t wish anyone ill, do as much good for someone else as possible,” his wife Sunita said, holding back tears.
At the terhvi, where rituals are being undertaken to bring peace to the martyr, the family’s small house, comprising of two rooms is swarming with guests. Many of them, Rana’s neighbours, friends and family are weeping and sombre.
Rana’s other son and his youngest child, Sanjay, doesn’t say much, only sitting in a corner with his eyes downcast, sniffing at intervals. When asked if he wanted to say anything, he shook his head, but was more than happy to show us his father’s belongings.
Rana’s other daughter Soniya, kept herself busy providing any photos and belongings of her late father that would help reconstruct his life, but was too grief-stricken to speak much and through her tears, only thanked us for giving him the attention he deserved.
‘It Is All on Me Now’
Rana was the only earning member of the family which doesn’t have much. They are devastated, but they’re also worried about their sustenance going forward. They have some land, but that only suffices for basic household needs. They also do not have the money to cultivate their land well.
“Our father was the only one earning. He ran the household expenses. We have no one else, neither do we have any other form of income. He was the sole breadwinner of the family,” Monika said.
The burden of supporting the family has now fallen on the young shoulders of Rohit Kumar, who wore a look of desperation, shock and worry on his face when The Quint met him.
“It has all come down to me now. I’ll have to do something,” said the 21-year-old, who is still in his final year of education at the MDU University in Sonepat, where he is pursing his BA.
The family hopes that if nothing, Rohit will be given a job by the RPF to help them along. The young man was already hoping to enter the RPF and follow in his father’s footsteps, but there is an urgency now that there wasn’t before.
‘Want Our Father to be Honoured’
The RPF has stepped up to help the family, at least in the matter of finances, with the Northern Railways department raising an amount of over Rs 2 lakh within days, a cheque that Hoshiar Singh handed over to Sunita at the terhvi.
Since then, contributions from all-India RPF have raised nearly Rs 19 lakhs, which have been transferred to an account opened in Sunita’s name, Singh told The Quint. Rohit confirmed this as well.
But what the family craves more than money and a job is that Rana be recognised for his sacrifice. “The Delhi government, Kejriwal ji, they honour martyrs and help their families. We want them to honour papa as well,” Rohit said.
Rana’s wife said she hoped that Delhi CM Kejriwal and Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar would recognise his bravery and take some step to honour him, since his act had brought recognition to Delhi and Haryana.
Rana’s daughter Monika also said the same, stressing that they wanted him to be honoured on his birthday, 15 August. “We want our father to be honoured on 15th August because he saved four lives before losing his own. This is our appeal to the government, that he should receive a bravery award,” she said.