Siachen hero Lance Naik Hanamanthappa Koppad may have left an indelible imprint on the nation’s collective consciousness and acquired iconic status, but his dead comrades are still awaiting a funeral.
The army is keeping its fingers crossed for the weather to improve on the Siachen glacier so that it can fly the bodies of the nine soldiers killed in the February 3 avalanche to their hometowns. The bodies were retrieved by rescue teams on February 9 but remain stuck at the army’s Kaziranga base at 19,000 feet as inclement weather has made helicopter sorties impossible, officials said on Thursday.
“We will fly the bodies out even if we get the smallest flight window. The army understands the pain the martyrs’ families must be enduring,” Northern Army commander Lieutenant General DS Hooda said.
The army identified the nine martyrs as Subedar Nagesha TT, Havildar Elumalai M, Lance Havildar S Kumar, Lance Naik Sudheesh B and Sepoys Mahesha PN, Ganesan G, Rama Moorthy, Mushtaq Ahmed S and Sepoy nursing assistant Suryawanshi SV.
The bodies have to be flown from the helipad at Kaziranga to the military hospital at Partapur where the army’s Siachen brigade is based. The bodies will be embalmed at the hospital and wreath-laying ceremonies will be held before a special Indian Air Force (IAF) plane ferries the martyrs from the Thoise base to New Delhi. From there, the fallen soldiers will be flown to their hometowns.
Army officials said Koppad’s evacuation from the glacier would have been impossible had it been delayed by even one hour as the weather worsened. The rescue mission saw the IAF’s Mi-17 V5 and Cheetal helicopters fly 215 sorties.