Missing soldier's body found in Siachen after 18 years

Missing soldier's body found in Siachen after 18 years

After 18 years of being in an icy grave, the mortal remains of Havildar Gaya Prasad will be consigned to flames in a tiny village in western Uttar Pradesh on Thursday.

Prasad, the quarter-master of his company, was collecting stores from a helidrop when he fell into a deep crevasse on the Siachen glacier – the world's highest and harshest battlefield – on December 9, 1996, His unit, 15 Rajput, tried to retrieve his body for three days, but could not.

On Sunday, another Army battalion in Siachen on patrol was surprised to see a man’s hand coming out of the snow, in another location. They dug deep to find the body, which is more or less intact except for some scars and skin damage, said an Army officer.

As thousands of Indian soldiers have served in Siachen over the last 18 years, the identification would have taken more time, had it not been for a letter in his pocket. It was an administrative letter that mentioned Prasad’s unit on the top.

Subsequently, the Rajput regiment at Lucknow Cantonment traced the family to his native village of Kurlia in Mainpuri district. His son was taken to Chandigarh to receive the body.

Prasad’s body was transported on a sledge to a location from where the Army’s Cheetah helicopter brought it to the Siachen base camp. Subsequently, the Dhruv advanced light-weight helicopter brought the coffin to Leh from where it was flown in an Air India flight to Delhi.

Army Chief Gen Dalbir Singh on Wednesday paid tribute to the soldier, who was declared missing dead 18 years ago while serving at Khanda Post in Siachen (Northern Glacier). The body was transported by road to his native village.

He is survived by his father, Gajadhar Prasad (retired Subedar), wife Rama Devi, one son and two daughters.

Since 1984, at least 860 lives have been lost in Siachen, a majority due to harsh climatic conditions and the challenging terrain of the 76-km glacier. Nevertheless, around 3,000 soldiers are being deployed on the glacier throughout the year as India dominates all the strategically important heights.

Sub-zero temperatures drop to minus 60 degrees during winter in Siachen. A majority of the posts in Siachen are located at over 16,000 ft, the highest one being the Bana post at around 22,000 ft.

Several times, Pakistan proposed demilitarising the glacier as it is in a disadvantageous position there and has even refused to authenticate ground positions. But successive Indian Army chiefs voiced their opposition to the proposal, terming it as a strategic location.

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