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Saturday, November 27, 2021

Mystery over pilots remains

NEW DELHI, MAY 29: Less than two months before events to mark the 50th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions begin, Pakistan became a sus...

Written by Manvendra Singh |
May 30, 1999

NEW DELHI, MAY 29: Less than two months before events to mark the 50th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions begin, Pakistan became a suspected offender when the body of Sqd Ldr A Ahuja was returned with three bullet wounds.

Though the final post-mortem report from Srinagar is awaited, an agency item quoting official sources said bullet wounds were visible on his chest and below the chin, indicating that he was shot from the front.

Air Force officials are convinced that he was killed after being captured. Air Vice Marshal S K Malik confirmed today that Sqd Ldr Ahuja was alive when he ejected from his MiG-21, which had been hit by a missile, and that the body bore bullet wounds when it was handed over. Air Force officials are now wondering whether both pilots put up a fight even on the ground, or was one summarily murdered after capture?

Pakistani media and South Block officials here have confirmed that Flt Lt Nachiketa continued to evade capture after he had ejected from his MiG-27 which had suffered anengine failure. “Flt Lt Nachiketa tried to escape, but when the Pakistani troops located him, he fired eight rounds from his 9-mm pistol and later had no option but to surrender,” reported The News, a Pakistani daily, today. Another Pakistani newspaper also carried a similar account, which Air Force officers here believe to be true. “It is only in the fitness of things that he should evade capture. That is what we are all taught to do,” said Air Force officers in Delhi today.

What, however, is intriguing the officers here is that there has been no evidence of the Pakistanis being in possession of the wreckage of Flt Lt Nachiketa’s MiG-27. “While they have shown him to the media, albeit from a distance of 30 metres and without allowing anyone to speak to him, they haven’t shown his aircraft. If they could get to him, surely they could get to his aircraft as well. So where has his aircraft come down — on the Line of Control, on our side or on theirs?” asked an Air Force officer. The opposite, he added,is true for Sqd Ldr A Ahuja and his MiG-21. While the wreckage of his aircraft has been displayed on PTV, albeit as a MiG-27, the location of his body was never disclosed to the media. Sqd Ldr Ahuja’s aircraft came down at Marrol near Hamzi Ghund in the Skardu area. “The Pakistanis have been so ham-hamded about it that they displayed the tail-fin of Ahuja’s aircraft. The number on it, C-1539, gives it away to be a MiG-21. And this The News has been told by them to be Nachi’s aircraft, pointed out the Air Force officer. “At the same briefing in Skardu,” he added, “the journalists have been shown Ahuja’s jacket, transmitter, personal weapon, and even his ejection seat and parachute. But he has also been declared as missing.”

That briefing, said the officers, would have been on Friday, and it was the same day that the body was returned at Post 43 near Kargil. “So why did they hide this from their media, as also the location of Nachi’s aircraft?” he wondered.

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