TWO WEEKS after Sepoy Chandu Babulal Chavan, posted with 37 Rashtriya Rifles at Mendhar along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, was reported to have “inadvertently crossed over” the LoC, the Pakistan army has accepted that the 22-year-old is in their custody.
The first official confirmation of the whereabouts of Chavan was conveyed on Thursday by officials of the Pakistan army’s military operations directorate to their Indian counterparts over the official hotline, Army sources told The Indian Express.
Chavan crossed over to the Pakistani side with his rifle around noon on September 29, hours after DGMO Lt General Ranbir Singh had announced the surgical strikes by Indian special forces on terrorist launch pads across the LoC.
By 2.30 pm that day, Lt General Singh had informed the Pakistan army on the hotline about Chavan, said sources. The Indian Army had clarified at the time that Chavan’s disappearance was not connected to the strikes.
Thursday’s acknowledgement by Pakistan has now raised hopes that Chavan will be returned to India through existing mechanisms.
At Chavan’s village in Maharashtra’s Dhule district, family and friends started gathering at his grandparents’ residence as soon as they came to know about the latest development. “We have great faith in the government’s assurance that Chandu will be brought home safe,” said a friend of the family.
Two weeks ago, soon after Chavan’s family had been informed that he may been captured by the Pakistan army, his grandmother Lilabai suffered a cardiac arrest and died in Jamnagar, Gujarat, where she was visiting her other grandson, Bhushan Chavan, who is with the Maratha Light Infantry.
Lilabai, 65, and her husband Chinda Dhondu Patil Sonawane had brought up the two boys in Borvihir village after the brothers lost their parents at a young age.