Six days and counting

“The land is so barren and the passes so high, that only the fiercest of enemies and the best of friends want to visit us.”

-Slogan at Army’s Siachen Base Camp


Siachen the coldest and highest battlefield in the world has been a courageous show of the Indian defense forces for more than three decades. Siachen deployments starts from 12000 feet and goes up to the height of 22000 feet. `Siachen` means `the place of wild roses`, a reference some people attribute to the abundance of Himalayan wildflowers found in the valleys below the glacier, but specifically refers to the thorny wild plants which grow on the rocky outcrops. Siachen is known as prime example of mountain warfare. The roots of the conflict over Siachen lie in the non-demarcation of the cease-fire line on the map beyond a map coordinate known as NJ9842. The 1949 Karachi agreement and the 1972 Shimla Agreement presumed that it was not feasible for human habitation to survive north of NJ9842. Prior to 1984 neither India nor Pakistan had any permanent presence in the area.

Siachen is known for its tough terrain and harsh weather conditions making human habitation almost next to impossible. Enemy at Siachen is not so much an entity armed with rifles and guns across the Actual Ground Position Line — no fire has been exchanged between Indians and Pakistanis in more than a dozen years here — but nature, the atmosphere, snow, mountains, and the isolation, the mind, and one’s own body. Despite all odds Indian armed forces have shown their metal braving all difficulties and able to maintain the security of the region. Siachen’s posts are strategically crucial for Indian defense establishment and India’s own security.

Recent event of avalanche in Siachen has cost a life of our brave heroes. In this tragic accident ten of our soldiers were martyred. Lance Naik Hanumanthappa Koppad was amongst them. Lance Naik Hanumanthappa was the brave hero from 19 Madras battalion which was deployed at Northern Glacier, the toughest tour of duty at Siachen, only recently, and all its men were still not fully acclimatized for heights above 18,000 feet. Avalanche was struck on Feb 3 at early morning at Sonam post and was known to the establishment only after five to six hours. After receiving inputs of accident many Avalanche Recovery Team (ART) were sent for Sonam post from nearby posts.After intense search for six days rescuers have heard the Hanumanthappa’s voice rang out on radio, from 35 feet under. It was a very brief message, but to the men on mission, it was a lifeline.

This rescue mission had used over 200 helicopter sorties, specialised digging and boring equipment, like rock drills, electrical saws and earth augurs,and even avalanche rescue dogs Dot and Misha were brought to the site. On february 8 evening,at around 5 pm, on the sixth day of mission rescuers picked up another signal of body heat and a radio set. Renewed efforts were put in place to get to the signal site. At around 7.30 in the evening Hanumanthappa was found, severely dehydrated, hypothermic, hypoxic, hypoglycemic and in state of shock. He was immediately airlifted to Delhi’s Research and Referral hospital where he fought another fight as a hero but finally succumbed to injuries.

We pray for the departed soul to be rest in peace.

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