President Ram Nath Kovind gave away the Ashok Chakra, the highest peace-time gallantry award, to Lance Naik Nazir Ahmad Wani posthumously on Saturday on the occcasion of 70th Republic Day.
Ahmad Wani -- the first Kashmiri to be chosen for the Ashoka Chakra -- lost his life while gallantly fighting six heavily armed terrorists.
Wani was a militant-turned-soldier who had joined the Army's 162 Infantry Battalion (Territorial Army) Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry in 2004.
Speaking to PTI on the eve of Republic Day in Delhi, Wani's wife Mahajabeen said "he telephoned me on the evening of Novemver 24. He told me about the encounter, and knew he is going to die. But he was resolute in his sense of duty. He told me to sleep well and asked me not to worry."
Though Mahajabeen, who is in her late 30s, did not want to talk about the situation in the Valley or militancy in the border state, she opened up when asked about youngsters in Kashmir.
"I want to do something for the youngsters, school children. They are the future of Kashmir. My husband's fearless persona and love for me have been driving me to do something for them," she told PTI in an interview.
It was love at first sight when they first met at a school in South Kashmir around 15 years back, said Mahajabeen when pressed to talk about her journey with Wani, the militant-turned-armyman who hailed from Cheki Ashmuji in Kulgam district of Jammu and Kashmir.
"I did not cry when I was told he is no more. There was an inner resolve which did not allow me to cry," she said
Mahajabeen, mother of Athar, 20, and Shahid, 18, said Wani wanted to make one son doctor and the other an engineer."I will fulfill his dream," she said.
Wani had joined the Army's 162 Infantry Battalion (Territorial Army) Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry in 2004, and emerged as a reliable soldier in anti-terror operations.
"He loved me so much. For me, he was my guiding light. He always encouraged all of us to make people around us happy, to resolve people's problems.
"As a teacher, I am dedicating myself to creating good citizens for my state. Leading the young minds in the right direction is my resolve and I am drawing inspiration for it from my beloved husband -- the best in the world," said Mahajabeen.
"He was a great husband, always fiercely protecting us," she said.
Mahajabeen said she was at her parents' house when the shocking news of Wani's death came.
"He had telephoned me the previous evening and enquired about our well-being. I had told him to take care of himself. But destiny had something else for him," said Mahajabeen.
"He always wanted to make his 162/TA Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry battalion proud. For him, duty was supreme. He was a source of inspiration for people in our area and community," she said.
On November 25, 38-year-old Wani lost his life in a counter-terror operation against six terrorists in Hirapur village near Batgund, in Shopian.
Under intense hail of bullets from the terrorists, he eliminated the 'district commander' of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and a foreign terrorist in a daring display of raw courage, officials said.
In the ensuing gunfight, he was hit multiple times, including on his head. He also injured another terrorist before succumbing to grievous wounds, they said.
"He was a brave soldier and a hero right from the beginning. He always served for peace in his home state of Jammu and Kashmir," said a senior Army official.
Wani was a recipient of the Sena Medal for gallantry twice in 2007 and 2018.
(With inputs from PTI)