In a stinging missive to the defence establishment, the Union home ministry has called the air force crew abandoning a bleeding policeman in the heart of the naxal territory last month “extremely disturbing” and a reflection on the crew’s “battle hardiness”.
Home secretary RK Singh sent the letter to his counterpart in the defence ministry, Shashikant Sharma, last week to call for an inquiry into the 18 January incident and seek appropriate action.
A road opening party of the Chhattisgarh Armed Police caught in a Maoist ambush had called for help to evacuate the injured security personnel.
Singh, however, conceded that the police had not adequately sanitised the area where the MI-17 chopper was to land, providing Maoists an opportunity to fire at the chopper on an evacuation mission with small firearms.
Yemlal Sahu, the Chhattisgarh police wireless operator, who was travelling with the IAS crew in the chopper, was injured. The helicopter – which was hit – had to make an emergency landing.
The air force crew “abandoned” the injured policemen and walked their way to safety at the Chintagufa police station in Sukma about 2 km away.
Sahu was rescued hours later by CRPF men and is fighting for life in a Raipur hospital.
In his letter, RK Singh said the conduct of the IAF personnel seemed to be “a clear case of violation” of standard operating procedures.
“This act by the members of an armed force is disturbing and reflects on their battle hardiness.”