Srinagar: It took 14 years for the Army to recognise the bravery of Major Pramod Purushottam, who was killed in the only 'fidayeen' attack on the Badamibagh cantonment here in 1999, as it unveiled his bust and paid floral tributes.
Major Purushottam, was the Public Relations Officer during the Kargil conflict, was in his office when Lashker-e-Taiba militants had launched a fidayeen (suicide) attack on November 3, 1999.
He and seven members of his staff laid down their lives while trying to save three mediapersons who escaped without a scratch.
Today, when 15 Corps Commander Lt Gen Gurmit Singh unveiled Purushottam's bust, the media and the family members of the late Major were kept away.
Major Purushottam, who was the face of the Army during the Kargil conflict, had been instrumental in improving the image of the force during those difficult days when the army was facing charges of human rights abuses in the Valley.
However, the Army had at that point of time downplayed the incident and the then Corps Commander of 15 Corps had misled the Defence Ministry by saying the suicide attack took place outside the cantonment area.
Asked why the army decided to unveil his bust now, the Corps commander said "better late than never".
Repeated requests for acknowledging the bravery of the slain Major, especially from the journalistic fraternity of the Valley, had earlier not yielded any results.
The three scribes, who were present at Purushottam's office at the time of the attack, even now feel that they owe their life to Purushottam as he had made them hide in the rest room while himself taking the onslaught of the militants.
The family members spoken to by PTI said they were informed of the function very late and it was not possible for them to reach Kashmir in such a short time.
"We were informed in the evening of February 18 and it was not possible to plan the trip keeping in mind the old-age of his parents," says his elder Vinod Purushottam from his home in Jabalpur.
Lt Gen Singh, when asked about the absence of family on the occasion, said "we will hold a function in honour of the martyred officer and invite his family."
On the day of the suicide attack, three journalists -- S Tariq, Fayaz Ahmed and Habib Nagush--were present with Pramod Purushottam discussing media matters in his office.
On hearing the sounds of firing by the terrorists and sensing trouble, Maj Purushottam, without caring for his personal safety, forced the journalists to take cover in the bathroom attached to his office along with one of the unit personnel. The terrorists, amidst indiscriminate firing, stormed their way into the PRO's office.
"Late Maj Pramod Purushottam bravely fought the terrorists and made the supreme sacrifice while trying to save the lives of those locked in his office complex," a release from the Defence Ministry said here.