M A I N   N E W S

Kabul Blast
Friends remember Venkat; ‘he was like a son to us’
Geetanjali Gayatri
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 7
A suicide attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul this morning rattled a family’s peace of mind in New Delhi. A 1990-batch Indian Foreign Service officer, Venkateshwara Rao, Venkat to friends and family, was killed in the attack along with 41 others.

While the news has shocked the family and friends of the Raos, his wife Malti, a passout from the Government College for Girls, Sector 11, Chandigarh, and daughter of former director of the forensic laboratory in Madhuban, Karnal, Dr M.B. Rao, is already in Kabul.

Back home, the senior Rao’s friends in the police circles recall Venkat as an amiable and affable person, a complete family man and concerned about his children’s future.

“He was like a son to us. His sudden death has come as a great shock to us. Only a couple of days ago, we were all together, discussing and charting the course of his son’s future,” said former DGP A.S. Batotia, a close friend of the Raos.

Batotia recalls that at the dinner he held on July 5 for the Raos, Venkat, who was on vacation in Delhi, was looking forward to returning from Kabul. “He was very happy to be back home on vacation. He mentioned that his term in Kabul was to end in September this year. Since his son is in class VIII, he told us that he was keen on staying in Delhi after his return to India till the time his son took his class X exam. Since my son and he are in the same age group, the youngsters sat separately while I caught up with Dr Rao, who had come from Hyderabad,” Batotia remarked.

This was the evening before Venkat flew back to Kabul to join duty and Dr Rao boarded a train to Hyderabad, little knowing that it would be their last meeting. Venkat reached Kabul yesterday. However, even before his father-in-law could alight from the train, still excited about the meeting with Malti, Venkat and his grandchildren, an explosive-laden vehicle, detonated by a suicide bomber who rammed into the gates of the Embassy, had killed him.

“Dr Rao was not told about the attack and Venkat’s death because he was alone on the train. His train reached in the evening after which the news was broken to him. I have fond memories of the Rao family since we were together posted in Madhuban. Venkat and Malti used to visit Dr Rao often and we used to routinely meet over a get-together,” maintains Dr John V. George, who is at present posted as the DG, Prisons.

The Haryana director-general of police, Ranjiv Dalal, fondly remembers Venkat. “As his deputy director at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy, I remember him as an outstanding, spirited boy with a great sense of adventure. This can be gauged from the fact that he opted for such a difficult posting in Kabul. I spoke to him two months ago when he was in Delhi and he seemed as ebullient as ever. There is a sense of disbelief over what has happened and it is a personal loss for Haryana’s police family,” he said.

Before his present posting in Kabul, Venkat had served in the US and Sri Lanka. He is survived by his wife, who is a teacher at Sanskriti School, New Delhi, a son and a daughter.




Brig’s family was in Kabul when Taliban struck
Raju Williams & Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Brig Ravi Datt Mehta
Brig Ravi Datt Mehta

Gurgaon/New Delhi, July 7
A Gurgaon resident, Brig Ravi Datt Mehta, working as a military attaché in the Indian Embassy in Kabul, was killed in a suicide bomb attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul this morning.

According to Major R.K. Sharma, secretary, Zila Sainik Board, Gurgaon, the mortal remains of Brigadier Mehta were expected to reach the Palam airport, Delhi, by a special plane of the India Air Force tomorrow morning. Colonel 'A' of the Delhi area Headquarters, Delhi Cantonment, had been assigned the responsibility by the Army HQ for making arrangements for the cremation of the mortal remains.

Brigadier Mehta was a resident of DLF, Phase-II, here. The house was rented out after he was posted in Kabul for the past one year. The cremation is likely to take place at the Brar Square cremation grounds, Delhi, but his family would take the final decision in this regard.

Just a week or so ago Sunita Mehta had flown to Kabul for a short visit to her husband, Brig Mehta. Little could she have imagined that he would be killed while she was with him. His daughter Bhavya, 19, had also accompanied her mother to Kabul.

The home of the Mehtas at Gurgaon was vacant today as the news of his demise filtered in. The family otherwise hails from Mumbai, said Army authorities. Brig Mehta, 52, was appointed the defence attaché and also the military attaché in Kabul in February this year.

The bodies of the Brigadier, the political counsellor V. Venkateswara Rao and two ITBP personnel, Ajay Pathania and Roop Singh, will be flown back on board a special aircraft of the IAF. An IL-76 was requisitioned from the Chandigarh air base and it flew to Kabul at around 4 pm. The aircraft is expected to return later tonight or tomorrow. Some of the injured may also be airlifted while those having “manageable” injuries will be treated in Afghanistan. A medical team has also been dispatched.

A spokesperson for the ministry of defence said Brigadier Mehta was a bright and competent officer who had served in insurgency operations in the North East and J&K. He was commissioned in the Army in 1976. His son Flight Lieutenant Udit Mehta is a pilot with the Indian Air Force and is posted at a forward airbase in Rajasthan.

The families of the two ITBP men killed in the blast have also been informed, said ITBP authorities. While Pathania hails from Hoshiarpur in Punjab, Roop Singh belongs to Mandi in Himachal Pradesh. ITBP personnel posted in Afghanistan are covered under a special insurance scheme and each of them is insured for Rs 7.5 lakh. This is over and above the routine insurance cover and other benefits extended to them.




Brig Mehta had warned of attack in May
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 7
Military attaché at the Indian embassy in Kabul, Brig R.D. Mehta, had warned of ‘compound invasions’ on important buildings in the Afghan capital in May and ironically he himself became one of its victims today.

Brig Mehta had been regularly issuing security advisories for Indian nationals in the Afghanistan. His last advisory was on May 29 after a suicide attack on a convoy of the multinational force on the Kabul-Jalalabad highway that left three dead.

But, two days before that Mehta had prepared his advisory titled, ‘Threat of suicide attacks and compound invasions in Kabul city’.




Shimla link
Tribune News Service

Shimla, July 7
Brig R. D. Mehta’s family, including his father and two brothers, live in Kellston area, here. Mehta was a product of St Edward’s School here. His father served in the state services, and, today only, he returned home after having been admitted to the PGI, Chandigarh, for a month. Friends remember Brig Mehta as a man who has mastery over a dozen languages including Tibetan, Chinese and Pushto. His brother Vidhur Mehta, a prominent architect, left for Delhi with other relatives and friends to receive the body of Brig Mehta.



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