Dharwad (Karnataka): The village of Lance Naik Hanamanthappa Koppad plunged into grief as he passed away today after battling for life since his miraculous survival in Siachen, with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah leading the state in paying homage to the braveheart from Karnataka.
As the tragic news of Hanamanthappa's demise broke, a large number of relatives, friends, villagers and media contingent gathered near his home at Betadur village in Kundagol taluk of Dharwad district in north Karnataka.
While Mahadevi, Hanamanthappa's wife along with his daughter and close relatives are in Delhi, the other family members in the village were inconsolable.
Siddaramaiah, who was addressing a rally in Bengaluru for the February 13 Hebbal Assembly segment by-polls, paid his homage to the brave soldier by observing two minutes of silence and said he had sacrificed his life for the country.
The CM said he has already spoken to officials at Karnataka Bhavan in Delhi and asked them to provide all assistance to Hanamanthappa's family, including making arrangements for a special flight to bring them back to the state.
Siddaramaiah said ex-gratia will be announced to families of all three soldiers' from the state - Mahesh from Mysuru, Nagesh from Hassan and Hanamanthappa, who died in the Siachen "tragedy". "We are deeply pained because we thought he will recover in one or two days and come back. We prayed to all Gods... But I think God couldn't hear us.... The family is shattered...." said Hanamanthappa's friend Manjunath weeping inconsolably.
"Whole Betadur is immersed in grief...; All of us villagers prayed to Gods belonging to every religion for his recovery, don't know why God couldn't hear our prayer," a villager said.
Another villager said "we are in sorrow, but we are equally proud that he has martyred serving and securing our county, he is from our village."
Students of several schools in Dharwad district had been holding prayers for the recovery and return of Hanamanthappa ever since he was found alive after being buried under 25 feet of snow for six days following an avalanche that had hit his post at an altitude of 19,600 feet, where the temperature was minus 45 degrees Celsius.
The twin cities of Hubballi-Dharwad saw several organisations, political parties and schools conduct prayers for the recovery of Hanamanthappa.
Calling Hanamanthappa a "martyr", former Chief Minister and Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Jagadish Shettar said "I'm even more pained as he belonged to my native district of Dharwad. People wanted to know from him about his heroic will and learn about his experience during the days he was under ice."