Shimla, July 23: CRPF Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) Ajit Kumar spent the prime of his life serving the country including in terror-affected Kashmir valley but when the 45-year-old was found dead in 'suspicious' circumstances near railway tracks in Karnal, he was cremated as an "unidentified" person, courtesy what his family alleges was - official apathy.
On the evening of July 11, Kumar left his native Dehrat village in Himachal Pradesh's Hamirpur district to take a train for Delhi.
He was scheduled to meet his paramilitary force colleague at New Delhi from where they were to move to Assam to join duty after transfer from Srinagar, Kumar's family members said.
The family say they soon lost touch with Kumar after he left for the national capital.
After making efforts for a few hours, they approached the GRP post at Nangal Dam railway station, from where he had boarded the train, on July 12 and lodged a report about his mysterious disappearance.
But their worst fears came true when they learnt three days later that Kumar was found dead near rail tracks and cremated as an unidentified person.
"We were shocked to know that Kumar was cremated on July 15 by GRP Karnal after declaring his body as unclaimed, whereas we had lodged a missing report on the night of July 12 -three days before his cremation - with the Nangal Dam GRP police post," Rajeev Sharma, a relative of the deceased, told PTI.
Kumar's wife Sunita Devi and their three unmarried daughters could not see his face one last time due to the negligent attitude of GRP officials, he alleged. Karnal GRP officials, however, defended their action.
"As per the set rules, we kept his body for identification for 72 hours after recovering it from near tracks about two kilometres from the Karnal railway station on July 12 around 2.30 am. We released photos of the body in local media. No identity card or mobile phone was found from his clothes or near his body," Karnal GRP police station SHO Inspector Inderjeet Singh said.
But the family cannot understand the logic of releasing pictures in local papers when the person is most likely a traveller.
"What is the benefit of giving the photo in local media of the body of a person who was travelling in a train passing through that area?" Sharma asked.
The authorities were completing mere formalities, the deceased ASI's family believes.
"Had they been serious in identifying the body, the Karnal GRP officials could have contacted other railway stations," says Sharma.
He questions whether the police tried to investigate how the death occurred. Kumar might have been killed by someone pushing him out of the running train, Sharma said.
Inspector Inderjeet Singh, however, ruled out the possibility of murder.
"Kumar was a well-built and could not have been pushed like this. His postmortem report indicated multiple injury marks and there is a possibility he might have fallen accidentally from the running train," Singh said adding the deceased might have been sitting in the coach door because of the hot weather, dozed off and fallen.
Kumar's family, however, are not convinced and want a thorough probe into his death. Sharma also demanded exemplary action against GRP officials posted at both Karnal and Nangal Dam alleging negligence.
Nangal Dam GRP officials did not inform their counterparts in Haryana about the missing report while the Karnal GRP officials did not bother to collect any information after finding the body, he said.
SHO of Sirhind GRP police station Sub Inspector (SI) Sukhwinder Singh, under whose jurisdiction the Nangal Dam GRP police post falls, said "There is no set procedure for informing counterparts in other states regarding missing persons.
As per norms, the reports of missing persons from Punjab is published in a state gazette published by the criminal investigative agency at regular intervals," he added.
Sharma expressed surprise that even in this age, GRP officials were sticking to obsolete systems.
Meanwhile, Kumar's family brought his ashes from Karnal GRP after identifying the body from his clothes and photos on July 19.
Later Devi immersed his ashes in Ganga in Haridwar. "When we went to Karnal to take the ashes, a non-government organisation (NGO) even charged us Rs 3,000 for cremating the body," Sharma claimed.