A single phone call has thrown life off-kilter for the Dhavle family. They were busy with the arrangements for their son, Mahesh’s wedding in March, when they received the devastating news of his death while on duty in South Sudan.
The late Mahesh Dhavle was found lying in a pool of blood with his rifle beside him. A high-level probe is now underway to ascertain exactly what happened that fateful morning in South Sudan
Yet to come to grips with the shock, three days on, the Dhavles are still not able to grieve Mahesh properly, as they are still waiting for a last glimpse of his body. The 26-year-old was a sepoy with the Indian army, attached to the 9 Maratha Light Infantry. He was posted on a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Bor, around 203 km from Juba in South Sudan, since November 2014.
Relatives and friends have put up hoardings in their locality in Kanjurmarg to pay homage to Mahesh. Pic/Sameer Markande
Around 10.30 am on Monday morning, his younger brother Vishwanath (21) was at his part-time job when he got a phone call informing him that Mahesh had died from a bullet injury. Before he could even digest the news, the call got disconnected. “I was shattered. I tried calling the number again, but could not get connected.
I told my parents and family, and since then we have all been in a state of shock,” said the civil engineering student. Already in mourning, the family has stopped preparing food in their Kanjurmarg residence, but they are yet to catch a glimpse of his body. “It has been over 48 hours since we received the phone call from South Sudan, but so far no official intimation has come to us, nor we have got the body,” Vishwanath said yesterday.
The family was already under considerable pressure, as Mahesh was the sole earning member of his family, as his father a private driver was recovering from a paralytic stroke. “Mahesh was the only earning member, and his demise has ruined the entire family’s life,” said Niwas Shinde, a cousin.
Sources said that the death was not the result of an attack, but seemed to be an accident. An official revealed that on the fateful morning, the soldiers were busy with their routine, when suddenly they heard a gunshot. When they rushed to the spot, they found Mahesh lying in a pool of blood, with his rifle beside him. The bullet had penetrated his head, killing him on the spot.
A high-level probe is on to ascertain the facts of the incident and the report will be submitted to the army headquarters and defence ministry in Delhi. A post mortem was conducted at Juba, and the incident was reported to the UN headquarters in New York.
The official added that there was a delay in flying Mahesh’s body to his family as an NOC had to be obtained from the UN in New York. Considering the time difference between India and New York, the process is expected to be completed in a couple of days.
Waiting for Mahesh
An emotional Vishwanath said, “I would chat with my brother quite often on WhatsApp. The last time we chatted, we discussed his marriage. He was due to get married on March 25, this year. The wedding preparations were going on and we were to go to our native place in Narayangaon in Jinnar taluka, Pune. My brother was to return from South Sudan in the first week of March.”
Mahesh’s fiance, who is from Pune, has now arrived in Mumbai and is also waiting to pay her last respects. His friends and relatives, meanwhile, have begun putting up banners and hoardings in their locality in his honour.
Born for the army
Mahesh’s brother, Vishwanath said his brother had always been passionate about the army, even when he was a child. Mahesh was among the best NCC cadets in junior college and joined the army soon after his second year of BCom studies. He had participated in the Republic Day parade three years ago, and was previously posted in Jamnagar, Gujarat, and in Jammu and Kashmir, before he was deployed in South Sudan.