After images of the bodies of defence personnel, killed in an air crash in Arunachal Pradesh, wrapped in plastic sheets and packed in card boxes emerged on social media, the Defence Ministry has admitted the occurence to be an “aberration”. The ministry, in a statement issued Sunday, said soldiers have always been given full military honours and will continue to receive so. It also underlined that there was no road connectivity to the crash site.
On Friday, October 6, a MI-17V5 chopper of the Indian Air Force had crashed in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang district. Seven of those onboard, five IAF personel and two of the Indian Army, were killed in the crash. The chopper had taken off from an Army helipad at Khrimu, located near the border of Tawang town, and was on its way to an Army location in the hilly terrain. It crashed close to its destination and immediately caught fire.
A team of rescuers from the Army had immediately set out on a search mission and were able to locate the wreckage. The bodies of the soldiers were brought to Khrimu by air, from where they were flown to an IAF base in Tezpur, Assam.
The ministry, in further clarification, also cited constraints of the carriage effort in high-altitude area. It also said the chopper could not withstand full load, adding that the mortal remains of the soldiers were wrapped in locally available resources instead of improvised body bags or coffins. This, the Defence Ministry said, was an ”aberration”.
Soon after the images of the late soldiers’ mortal remains wrapped in plastic bags and kept in cardboard boxes, which were tied up with plastic ropes, emerged on social media, there was widespread outrage and demand for respect and availability of resources for soldiers.
Retired Lt General H S Panag, too, weighed in as he tweeted: “Seven young men stepped out into the sunshine yesterday, to serve their motherland. India. This is how they came home.” An engagement had followed on the social media site in criticism of lack of resources to soldiers in the last hour.
According to the defence ministry statement, the bodies of the deceased defence personnel had arrived at the Guwahati Base Hospital by 2 pm on October 6, following which post-mortem exmainations and other formalities commenced. Thereafter, the bodies were placed in wooden coffins and accorded full military honours. They were handed over to their respective next of kin, the statement said.
“Armed Forces always ensure full military honour to the fallen comrades,” the ministry’s statement added.