Sainik Group Centre in Ranikhet identified the mortal remains as that of Lance Naik Chandrashekhar Harbola of the 19 Kumaon Regiment.
The body of an Indian army jawan from the 19 Kumaon Regiment was found in an old bunker in Siachen, more than 38 years after he went missing in an avalanche while on patrol. On Sunday, the Sainik Group Centre in Ranikhet identified the mortal remains as that of Lance Naik Chandrashekhar Harbola.
Harbola was part of an army troop that was hit by an avalanche which claimed the lives of 18 soldiers of the 19th Battalion of the Kumaon Regiment. The soldiers were out on a mission called 'Operation Meghdoot' to fight Pakistan in 1984.
What was the mission?
‘Operation Meghdoot’ was launched in April 1984 by the Indian Army to occupy some parts of the Siachen Glacier that were being eyed by the Pakistan Army.
A battalion was stationed in Khrew, Jammu and Kashmir, under the command of Lt Col (later Brigadier) DK Khanna. The unit’s jawans were deployed 630 km from Khrew to Siachen for which they needed to cross the snow-covered Zoji La Pass. The unit is said to have been the only battalion to have crossed the Zoji La Pass on foot in winters with every soldier carrying an individual load of 35-40 kg.
The jawans faced a shortfall in clothing and equipment during the operation, but their morale remained high, Brig Khanna wrote in his book ‘Gorichen to Siachen: The Untold Saga of Hoisting the Tricolour on Saltoro’, Indian Express reported.
Stuck by an avalanche
On May 25, 1984, the 19 Kumaon Regiment was ordered to occupy Point 5965 with a platoon. 2/Lt P.S. Poondir, who had earlier led a patrol in Zoji La in snow-bound conditions, volunteered. Lt Col Khanna had asked Poondir to choose 17 volunteers from the troops.
“Everyone who volunteered was aware of the grave danger associated with the task,” Khanna wrote in his book.
In total, the final patrol had 18 soldiers, including sepoys, two Lance Naiks, two Naiks, two Havildars and one officer.
The patrol departed on May 27 and stopped communication on May 29. Another patrol along the same route had found items such as sleeping bags strewn on the snow. Taking the evidence into consideration, it was presumed that an avalanche had struck the patrol team on the night of May 28, burying them. Over the next few weeks, the bodies of 13 soldiers were recovered. 2/Lt Poondir’s mortal remains were discovered two months later.
Five soldiers were missing, of which remains of Lance Naik Chandrashekhar Harbola were recently recovered.
(Edited by : Sudarsanan Mani)