"Sir, please save me… I'm in pain and bleeding."
The chilling call for help from head constable Yemlal Sahu - abandoned by an air force crew after their Mi-17 chopper made an emergency landing on coming under Naxal fire in Chhattisgarh on January 18 - could be heard across police
stations in the forested area surrounding Chintagufa in Sukma district.
A bleeding Sahu cried for help for nearly four hours before COBRAs - elite CRPF commandos - reached the spot in the heart of Naxal territory to rescue him and guard the helicopter.
The IAF crew left behind a radio set, which Sahu used to call for help. They also left behind light machine guns that could have been used to fend off any Naxal attack.
An IAF officer, who did not wish to be identified, said the crew decided to leave because they didn't want to be taken hostage.
Asked why that didn't apply to Sahu, who was a sitting duck, the officer said, "That was the decision the crew took, right or wrong," adding that a probe is underway.
Left alone in an area - not far from where 76 CRPF men had been gunned down in April 2010 - Sahu's condition deteriorated and he soon lost orientation.
As darkness enveloped the helicopter, he was scared the Naxals would get him any minute.
Undergoing treatment at the Ram Krishna Care Hospital in Raipur, Sahu, from Jagdalpur (Bastar), responded with great difficulty as he spoke to HT, confirming he kept relaying messages through the wireless.
"I was helpless," he told this newspaper.
"He has experienced an extremely traumatic situation, and perhaps, that's why, he didn't utter a single word for a week. He is still reluctant to talk," Dr Sandeep Dave, director of Ram Krishna Care Hospital, told HT.
Describing his injuries, Dave said a bullet had hit his back and pierced his intestines.
"Faecal matter entered his abdomen and that further worsened his condition," Dave said, adding that the right side of his body was partially paralysed.
Defence minister AK Antony has asked for a report on the incident.
The IAF has ordered an inquiry and Antony said on Thursday that he is still waiting for the report.
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