Six IAF personnel killed in Budgam chopper crash: Amid rising India-Pakistan tensions, kin demand 'permanent' solution

Saurabh Sharma | Feb 27, 2019 | 4 min read

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Abhay Awasthi and Manoj Kumar

Even as India finds itself on the brink of another war with its arch-rival neighbour, six Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel died in a MI-17 chopper crash in Budgam district on February 27; bodies of Siddharth Vashishth, Ninad Mandvgane, Kumar Pandey, Vikrant Sahrawat, Pankaj Kumar, and Deepak Pandey have been recovered from the mangled remains of the helicopter that came down in Garend Kalan village on Wednesday morning.

While the cause of the crash is yet unknown, armed force personnel along with a forensic team are believed to be on the spot to collect evidence and ascertain what went wrong.

 

‘He was my only child, but I am proud of his sacrifice’

Ram Prakash Pandey is in shock — one minute he was in a happy space searching for a bride for his son, corporal Deepak Pandey, and the next he was being forced to come to terms with the news that his brave boy is no more.

A shroud of melancholy draped the family home in Kanpur city’s Chakeri area soon after Deepak’s mother received a phone call from an IAF officer informing about their son’s death. And as the news spread, a large number of people from the neighbourhood, undeterred by rain, dropped in to console the couple. 

Deepak, a helicopter technician, had joined the IAF in September 2012 and was posted in Srinagar in June 2018.

An inconsolable Ram Prakash managed to get a few words out to media persons crowding around his house. “Deepak had called his mother around 8 am that fateful day; it was a usual family conversation — we asked him if he’d had breakfast and he said he would as soon as he hung up. He even promised her that he was ready to get married the next time he came home for a visit,” he said.

Ram Prakash added that when they expressed their worry over the ongoing turmoil in Kashmir, Deepak assured them that everything was fine and that the situation would improve in the coming days. 

“He had returned to his unit last month and was in Kanpur for a while. He helped us get some repairs done in the house and even took me to the doctor to get my eyes checked. He was my only child; I still cannot believe he is no more, that he won’t be coming home anymore,” Ram Prakash sobbed. 

“He was so committed to serving the nation that he’d turned down so many of our requests to return home and get married. Had he listened, perhaps, he would be still with us. Nonetheless, I am proud; he laid his life down for his beloved country, not everyone gets the privilege to make such a sacrifice.”

Ram Prakash, who retired from a private firm a few months ago, wants strict action against Pakistan. “India has sacrificed enough of her sons to this cause; now is the time to teach Pakistan a stern lesson.”

 

‘We are ready to fight to give Pakistan a befitting reply’

The Sehrawat household in Bhadani village of Haryana’s Jhajjar is grieving too, but not without pride in their eyes and voice for their son, sergeant Vikrant’s sacrifice. Their relatives and neighbours, who have gathered at the house, however, are vehement that Article 370 should be scrapped, so that the long tussle can get over soon.

The 33-year-old officer, the third among four children, joined the IAF in 2005; he got married seven years ago to Suman and was father to five-year-old Kavya and 18-month-old Vardan. He was posted to Srinagar from Coimbatore four months ago and had resumed duty after a month-long leave just 40 days ago.

His father Krishna, a farmer, said, “Political parties should look for a permanent solution to this issue and, if need be, go into a war with Pakistan to finish everything once and for all; so that mothers of this country don’t keep losing their children.”

Krishna is already determined to serve the country in a war-like situation and wants his second son to join the army too, “so that enemies of the country can be taught a lesson”.

Vikrant’s uncle Ashok, a retired armyman, seconded Krishna and said, “I am proud of Vikrant. It’s about time we finished this... we all ex-servicemen are ready go to the border to give Pakistan a befitting reply.”

His visibly devastated mother, however, couldn’t say much but said he was proud of him.

Vikrant’s mortal remains are expected to reach the village on Thursday, where he will be given the final farewell with state honours.

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