Eighteen years ago, Havaldar Gaya Prasad of the 15 Rajput Battalion went missing from the northern Siachen glacier while collecting supplies airdropped for the forces on the highest battlefield in the world. When he could not be traced for days, it was presumed that the 38-year-old soldier had fallen deep into a crevasse and died. The confirmation came only two days ago.
On Sunday, Armymen were conducting a link patrol between Khanda and Dolma posts along the northern glacier when they discovered the body of a soldier — “well preserved” and partly under snow cover. A letter was found in his pocket, addressed to the Commanding Officer of his battalion by the soldier’s company commander.
With a new battalion occupying the posts in the glacier every few months, establishing Prasad’s identity would have been difficult had it not been for the letter, Army officers said. An officer said the challenge “was overcome by a letter we found in his pocket on which his unit was mentioned”.
“Once we knew the unit, finding his roots was not difficult,” the officer said, adding that Prasad’s family in Kuraidaya village in Mainpuri district of Uttar Pradesh has been informed. “How he fell still remains a mystery. But when his body was not recovered, he was declared a battle casualty given the adverse serving conditions at the glacier,” said the officer.
On Tuesday, Prasad’s body was moved on a “sledge/ snow scooter” to an area from where it could be airlifted and was flown in Army’s Cheetah helicopter to General Hospital in Leh, the headquarters of the Army’s 14 Corps. Sources said the body would be flown to Chandigarh before being taken to his village where he would be cremated with military honours.
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Retired Subedar Major and Gaya Prasad’s colleague, Badshah Singh, who belongs to neighbouring Etawah district, said he was contacted by Rajput regiment headquarters at Lucknow Cantonment and asked to inform Prasad’s family members. Singh was accompanying Prasad when he went missing. Singh and Gaya were then posted at Chunar and Saila complex posts at Siachen.
Singh said that in December 1996 he along with Prasad and others were on duty. It was afternoon when Prasad suddenly fell into a crevasse. A search operation was conducted and even officials from other states were engaged in it. But Prasad could not be traced. The officials then declared him dead and simultaneously his family was informed, said Singh.
In December 1999, Prasad’s family received a certificate of honour, signed by the Army chief, stating that he was killed during ‘Operation Meghdoot’ against Pakistan Army.
A relative told The Indian Express that two Army personnel visited Prasad’s house and took his son Satish with them to take custody of the body. Satish’s cousin Praveen said, “Satish has been asked to stay at Chandigarh while two officials have gone to bring the body.”
Satish was 15 years old when his father went missing. His elder sister was then married while younger sister was studying in school. Prasad’s wife Rama Devi, 52, brought up the children. Prasad’s father Gajadhar Singh, 90, is still alive, added Praveen.