Twenty-four years after her son, Second Lieutenant E T Joseph, laid down his life fighting militants in Nagaland, Thressiamma Joseph is set to make her way from Kottayam in Kerala to Chakabama in Nagaland next month to visit her son’s grave for the first time.
Commissioned in June 1991 in the Corps of Military Intelligence, Second Lieutenant Joseph was on the verge of finishing his year-long attachment with the First Battalion of Fifth Gorkha Rifles (1/5 GR) when he was killed in an encounter with NSCN insurgents in Nagaland in June 1992.
Because of logistical problems at the remote location, Joseph was buried at a graveyard near his unit. His father, Subedar Major A T Joseph, who was posted in Shillong at the time, attended his burial, but stayed for only a couple of hours. Since then, neither Joseph’s mother nor his two sisters have been able to visit Nagaland.
Joseph’s coursemates from the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, who graduated from the 78th Course of the National Defence Academy (NDA) in June 1990 and from their respective service academies in June 1991, got together on the silver jubilee of their commissioning and decided to ensure that Thressiamma and her daughters, Mary and Rohamma, could visit Joseph’s grave and get some closure.
Col Sajan Moideen (retd), one of Joseph’s coursemates, said a team effort helped them trace the family members, who had moved from their original address.
Speaking to The Indian Express over phone from Hyderabad, Col Moideen, who detailed the efforts on his blog, said, “One of our coursemates, Shamsher (rank withheld on request), who is posted in Kochi, was given the task of locating them and he was eventually successful in his efforts.”
“When we got in touch with the family and Shamsher presented them a memento of the silver jubilee, his mother expressed a wish to visit her son’s grave. We decided that as Joseph’s coursemates, the least we could do was to organise this visit,” said Chandigarh-based Major R S Virk (retd).
Speaking to The Indian Express over phone from Kottayam, Subedar Major Joseph said the family was immensely moved by the gesture. “My wife and I want to visit our son’s grave. We never thought it would be possible,” he said.
Subedar Major Joseph, who served in the Army’s Corps of Engineers, said his son had done his schooling in Kendriya Vidyalayas across India. “He passed the NDA examination when I was posted in Secunderabad in 1987. He was doing his attachment with an infantry battalion when we lost him,” he said.
One of the officers from the course, Robi (rank withheld on request), who is currently posted in Nagaland, was given the task of locating the grave. He eventually managed to trace it, though it was in poor shape. “Meanwhile, contributions started pouring in and soon we had nearly Rs 2.5 lakh to help the family travel from Kerala to Nagaland,” said Major Virk.
“Another coursemate, Group Captain Manoj Kumar, who now works with Indigo Airlines, spoke to the management of his company, which offered to sponsor the tickets of the parents for the Kochi-Bengaluru-Kolkata-Dimapur flight,” said Col Moideen.
Joseph’s coursemates will take care of the family’s stay in Nagaland. “The Army has been very supportive of this project. All permissions and clearances came in expeditiously and with a smile,” said Major Virk.