How Siachen soldier Hanamanthappa gave India an occasion to cheer, and grieve as one

The Siachen braveheart gave India an occasion to cheer and marvel — and to grieve together as one

Written by Manmohan Bahadur | Updated: February 12, 2016 9:30 am
hanamanthappa, lance naik hanamanthappa, siachen, siachen avalanche, soldier dead, siachen soldier, siachen soldier dead, tribute to hanamanthappa Siachen soldier Lance Naik Hanamanthapp, passed away at the Delhi’s Research and Referral hospital

Lance Naik Hanamanthappa is no more — but he has become a symbol of something bigger and left behind a spirit that needs to be nurtured.

Symbolism means to imbue objects with a certain meaning that is different from their original meaning or function. A ring on the ring finger symbolises commitment, while a piece of metal shaped into a three-point star and mounted on the bonnet of a car symbolises a universal acceptance of a motor car of top quality from Germany. The Americans pulled off quite a show on April 17, 2012, when they flew the last Space Shuttle Discovery, perched on its Boeing 747 carrier, in the skies over Washington before retiring it to a museum. Washingtonians poured out of their offices and homes. “There were costumes, there were cheers and, of course, there were tears,” wrote The Washington Post. This was well-thought-out symbolism — a tug at nationalistic chords, so important for nation-building.

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Hanamanthappa gave India an occasion to cheer, to marvel, to rally around the tricolour and now to grieve together as one. The question is, will we grab the opportunity or carry on with our petty quibbles?

Hanamanthappa was an icon in our midst who literally rose from the dead while, to paraphrase Lord Tennyson, there was ice to the left of him, ice to the right of him, ice on top of him — a full 35-feet high at minus 45 degrees Celsius — and yet he braved it all. His corps commander could only whisper “jolly good” and wipe his moist eyes when news of his recovery was broken to him; his wife could only smile. #SiachenMiracle started trending on social media and the whole nation said a silent prayer for his recovery. A young Atal Bihari Vajpayee had called Indira Gandhi “Durga” after the 1971 war victory. Kargil was the next time that political bickering was set aside and all politicians came together as one. Does the politics of our nation require another war to put all energies together for the betterment of India? Can there be a Hanamanthappa effect?

Read: Siachen – Death (and some glory) at 20,000 ft

Hanamanthappa represents valour; he stood for willpower, grit, determination, fortitude and resilience — all that a rising India needs. India requires cohesiveness that is born out of commonly shared values that the Indian army is a shining example of, not the centrifugal and fissiparous pulls of divisive caste politics. It needs a beacon that beckons the faithful in their march to the promised prosperity by leadership of all hues. While the general public is in a rat race to get hold of scarce opportunities, it’s the Hanamanthappas who slog along silently on the fringes of society, oblivious to the majority. There comes a time, but rarely, when a Hanamanthappa happens and enters the collective psyche of a multitude to effect a disruptive change in society and its behaviour. The world saw that in the young Syrian boy lying face down, dead on a beach in the Turkish resort town of Bodrum. That photograph of him moved Europe, and indeed the world, to look at the refugee crisis differently. Aylan, the Syrian toddler, became an iconic catalyst for change in how the international community viewed itself.

Read: Nation pays tribute to Koppad, last rites today

A few decades earlier, during the Cold War, in 1980, the US ice hockey team, composed mainly of college students, defeated the world champions, the USSR, in the semi-final of the winter Olympics. The “miracle on ice” meant an ideological victory for the US against the USSR at a time when national morale was low due to recession and America’s humbling on the world stage due to the Iran hostage crisis. The US needed something to celebrate — the ice hockey team’s victory provided just that and galvanised the American nation.

Lance Naik Hanamanthappa’s epic survival was a “miracle under ice”. His fight can become India’s catalyst for galvanising society to shrug its lethargy and move with fortitude towards our promised future. Is India ready to seize this opportunity? The political leadership of the country has a call to make. It can use the “Hanamanthappa track” to bring India together in its march to prosperity. This would be a fitting tribute to his indomitable spirit.

(This article appeared in the print edition under the headline ‘A tribute to Hanamanthappa’)

The writer, a retired air vice marshal, is distinguished fellow, Centre for Air Power Studies, Delhi

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  1. P
    Prabhu
    Feb 12, 2016 at 6:46 am
    What a sick article le...was that an occasion...disgrace for journalism
    Reply
    1. K
      K SHESHU
      Feb 12, 2016 at 11:07 am
      While such soldiers lay down their lives to protect the boundaries, their homes, their means of livelihood, the robots in airconditions chalk out war strategies and defence deals ...
      Reply
      1. A
        Ashutosh Sharma
        Feb 12, 2016 at 6:56 am
        She looked so beautiful in black and she beckoned to him Said, “Come and embrace me and then together we’ll swim”. He heard another voice it seemed to come from far Wearing white, a weather beaten face for her, the things must’ve been hard She seemed to be saying “Don't leave me, oh please don’t don't look at her, she’s evil If you go now, return you won’t” She looked prettier, wearing black She promised heavenly delight She was there for his taking, but there was something about the one in white She promised no glamour, looked so plain going with her meant struggle and pain At scary heights and bone chilling cold She looked ugly not the one you wanna hold But she looked real, she looked so pure wore an expression that she needed him more She reminded him of his mom, baby and wife Pale, weak and helpless in white, it was “life” Spreading her arms, inviting him close It was death in black when everything froze It was the moment when choosing life was silly Death looked easy, prettier, wanton and frilly But he chose the life, it needed him more For him, life meant his nation and its 125 crore His unit, his pride, his little baby mom and wife He knew it won't be easy, tough had been his life Hang on he did, as long as he could Let's feel the pride and let us not cry Oh, thappa, you taught us all Never, ever to give up without a try !! A big salute to you thappa !!
        Reply
        1. R
          Rajesh
          Feb 12, 2016 at 9:53 am
          What a disgusting heading and article. Have some shame, you pressutes. Hanamanthappa was a father, a son, a brother, a husband, an Indian hero. He is not some symbol for you pressutes to use. Shameless people.
          Reply
          1. R
            Rajesh
            Feb 12, 2016 at 9:51 am
            While Indians are mourning the death of hero Hanamanthappa, the anti-nationals are claiming that jihadis Afzal Guru and Ishrat Jahan are martyrs. Our brave soldiers bear inhumane conditions, to defend India's borders, ensure that Kashmir forever stays with us where it belongs, and ensure that India is forever the land of the free. Meanwhile, traitors within our country who only have the right to breathe because of martyrs like thappa are chanting in supports of jihadis who murder our military.
            Reply
            1. G
              G M
              Feb 12, 2016 at 9:34 am
              Sorry, we are reason for your untimely demise.W nation was praying for your recovery. But you proved victorious and served us with your life. We are indebted. The jawan's who are stationed at Siachin battles for survival through out their posting. Whenever there is a story of bravery, chiverly and valour is described, you will find place among the toppers.I can hear you singing KAR CHALE HAM FIDA JAN O TAN SATHIYON, AB TUMHARE HAWALE WATAN SATHIYON . It is now our responsibility to treasure our nation to the likening of all who sacrificed for nation.बी.जे.पी. के पहले था जय जवान और जय किसान, बी.जे.पी. के बाद है मर जवान और मर किसान | मत भूलो श्री मान् , अधिकतर जवान हैं किसानों की सन्तान | सब हैं हैरान और परेशान, खून के प्यासे ले रहे हैं नौजवानों की जान | अगर पूछो पैग़ाम, तो बताते हैं मेरा भारत महान | बहुत हुआ बलिदान, अब बस भी करो लेना इम्तेहान| जो अगर न बचेगा इन्सान, तो किसका होगा कल्यान | अगला चुनाव भी आना है, वोट मॉगने जाना है , सम्भल जा नादान , वर्ना ा होगा अन्जाम |
              Reply
              1. G
                G M
                Feb 12, 2016 at 1:28 pm
                B.J.P. people are owerjo by Hadeley's revelation . Just think a setuation when Hadeley will claim Modi as I.S.I. agent and Gujarat carnage is done with I.S.I. order and did not care Raj Charm for stan.
                Reply
                1. G
                  G M
                  Feb 12, 2016 at 1:28 pm
                  These anti social elements resembles Dreaded Terrorist Nathu Ram Godse. Therefore B.J.P. government Will encourage them instead of punishing to reap electoral benefits. Raj Nath's claim is just lip service. J. N. U. please defy B. J. P. and become nationalist to defeat anti nationals and supporter of Nathu Ram Godse.Obviously these J. N. U. slogan mongers are planted by B. J. P. to divert attention from important issues like BHOJ MASJID siege and benefit them in elections.
                  Reply
                  1. B
                    BharatK
                    Feb 12, 2016 at 10:35 pm
                    Wrong statement: "A young Atal Bihari Vajpayee had called Indira hi “Durga” after the 1971 war victory." This statement is 100% wrong. Shri Vajpayee never said it.
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                    1. R
                      Radhika
                      Feb 12, 2016 at 2:26 pm
                      children of army martyrs should get reservation in IIT, IIM and AIIMs not those SC/ST/OBC who study in elite / convent schools and then take coaching and then get quota. I know children of many leaders and bureaucrats who take advantage of quota even though they study in the best schools and parents earn better than others. Give martyras and their families their dues and rehabilitate their families and children.
                      Reply
                      1. R
                        rohitchandavarker
                        Feb 12, 2016 at 6:30 pm
                        The feeling of Indianness is an innate feeling and cannot be thrust upon people. This spirit is amply evident in our men and women in uniform. There is no quarter given to any societal differences as is evident in civic society. The differences are created for selfish reasons with ulterior motives, something alien in our defence forces. The pride of our nation surpes all boundaries of glory, valour, bravery, camaraderie and sacrifice. The same cannot be said of civil society where compartmentalisation is the norm. How many of us Indians call ourselves INDIANS first??? The pride of being Indian is rarely demonstrated and practised so unlike our armed forces. This feeling has to be inculcated from school but, unfortunately, our curriculum rarely provides for such teaching. One suggestion that the Govt. ought to implement is compulsory military training for every Indian. This will instil discipline, maturity and the feeling for the country.
                        Reply
                        1. U
                          UFOJadu
                          Feb 12, 2016 at 11:25 pm
                          Articles like this will not solve the hunger, poverty of illiterate widow and mother of deceased thappa. The family needs immediate financial support which they are enled for. Everyone knows how crooked the system in India, the case worker will ask money to forward the file . In any developed country victims always get the financial support, in Salman's hit and run case the victims got nothing after 12 years of trail but Salman is acquitted.
                          Reply
                          1. V
                            Vijay
                            Feb 12, 2016 at 4:46 pm
                            To keep the symbolism alive, please rename the Sonam Post in Siachen as Hanaman Post. This will ensure the spirit of Lance Naik, his nine Madras Regiment comrades and all those who serve will outlast the headlines and op-eds.
                            Reply
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