“When khai (elder brother) came home during Bihu in April, he told me so many things about the Indian Navy and the sea that I had also made up my mind to join the Navy. But now I don’t know what to say,” said 16-year-old Dalton as he recounted the days he spent with his elder brother Naruttam Dewri — one of the 18 sailors feared dead in the INS Sindhurakshak explosion.
His uncle Cabinet Dewri has been flown by the government to Mumbai for a DNA test after rescue divers found five bodies that were charred beyond recognition from the submerged submarine.
The family, which has been living in abject poverty, remains inconsolable. “Three years ago, Naruttam’s father had to mortgage three bigha of his land for Rs 20,000 so that he could buy basic necessities for his son to travel to Vishakhapatnam to join the Indian Navy,” said Mahesh Deuri, the neighbour of Dewris at Majorchapori village in Lakhimpur district in eastern Assam, some 350-odd kms away from Guwahati.
The family is so poor that they do not even have a proper house. It is a tin-roofed hut made of bamboo. “They were allotted a house under Indira Awas Yojna several years ago. But taking advantage of the family’s ignorance, the contractor left it incomplete by providing them just a few tin sheets,” said another villager.
On learning about this, Chief Minister of Assam Tarun Gogoi has asked his Chief Secretary P Varma to ensure that the family’s land was freed of the mortgage as early as possible.
Naruttam, a fairly brilliant student from the backward tribal village, had to quit engineering within three months after taking admission because of his financial condition. “After joining the college, he discovered that engineering was an expensive course. He quit to return home. Seeing his father struggle hard to make both ends meet, he applied for a sailor’s job in the Indian Navy and made it,” said Mahesh.
With all hopes fading, Dalton has one question. “Will they declare him a shaheed (a martyr)?” he asked.