Young Army officer Lt Ummer Fayaz, who was abducted and killed by terrorists nearly two years ago, in his NDA days had once ran a cross-country race with an injured leg in the searing heat of July while observing fast during Ramzan, according to a new book.
After the launch of 'Undaunted: Lt Ummer Fayaz of Kashmir', author Bhaavna Arora announced that royalty earned from the book will be used for an annual scholarship named after Fayaz, which will benefit students of the high school he attended.
"We all lost a soldier... Ummer was loved by his fellow cadets, and now as officers they still recall him, and the time spent with him in the NDA. They still remember the time when Ummer had run a cross-country race while observing 'roza' (fast) during the month of Ramzan," she said.
Arora said not only he finished the race in the scorching summer, but he did that nursing a "stress fracture" in his leg.
"In the NDA (National Defence Academy), his instructor, batchmates and seniors encouraged and supported him and boosted his morale. He also goes to see the secular face that NDA truly has," she said.
In the thirteenth chapter of the book, the author, who belongs to family of Army officers, quotes one of his seniors, "...People talk of secularism in India, but the NDA truly practices it."
Fayaz, 23, was abducted and murdered by militants in South Kashmir's Shopian district on May 10, 2017, where he had gone to attend the wedding ceremony of a relative.
Five to six militants had abducted the 2nd Rajputan Rifles officer from his relative's house late night on May 9. His bullet-riddled body was found in the Harmain area of the district the next morning.
The book was launched at an event held at the Rajputana Rifles Regimental Centre at Delhi Cantonment here, which was attended by former senior army officers Lt Gen (retd) Syed Ata Hasnain, Lt Gen (retd) Satish Dua and former Delhi police commissioner Neeraj Kumar, and former colleagues and friends of the slain Kashmiri officer.
Army chief Gen Bipin Rawat, in a foreword in the book, says, "Ummer epitomises 'Kashmiriyat' in its truest sense and will go down in history as a hero who chose to serve the nation, against all odds."
Arora said Fayaz had to face resistance from many of his friends when he had decided to join the Army.
Lt Gen (retd) Hasnain, former general officer commanding for the 15 and the 21 Corps, said, "During my posting in Kashmir, we tried to engage with the youth."
"And, though people showed angst, many also showed inclination to join the armed forces," he said.
"Ummer created that amazing spirit. So, we need to talk to the Kashmiri youth, as many as we can, have conversations without thinking of outcomes. Because, it will not happen overnight," the former GOC of Srinagar-based Chinar Corps said.
Lt Gen (retd) Dua, who has previously led the Army in Kashmir, also recalled the anecdote about Fayaz running the cross-country race during the NDA days.
"As NDA folks, we really take pride in our legacy. And, Ummer by running that cross-country race despite his 'roza' in summers displayed that toughness that Army teaches you," he said.
Hailing from Kulgam district of Jammu and Kashmir, Fayaz was posted in the Akhnoor area in Jammu. He was commissioned in the 2nd battalion of the Rajputana Rifles, the oldest rifle regiment in the Army in December 2016, just five months before he was killed.
Arora announced that the 'Lt Ummer Fayaz Scholarship' will be made out of the "corpus of Rs 2 lakh, coming from royalty that we handed in cheque today to the Rajputana Rifles".
"Besides the scholarship, there would also be a rolling trophy. And, the interest earned from this amount will perpetuate the scholarship for successive years," she said.
"Ummer did his schooling, from class 5-12, at the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV), Anantnag," she said.